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Tribune Sells WCWN to Freedom for $17 Million

Jun 19, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Tribune Co., which is putting television stations on the market to generate cash for stock repurchases, sold WCWN-TV in Albany, New York, to Freedom Communications for $17 million.

“This transaction, like our recently announced sale of WATL-TV in Atlanta, supports our company’s plan to divest non-core assets as part of the stock repurchase strategy announced last month,” Tribune Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons said in a Monday statement.

WCWN is an affiliate of The WB and is to become an affiliate of The CW in September when Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. shutter The WB and UPN to create the new network.

Tribune had a stake in The WB and its stations, along with the CBS-owned stations that were the first affiliates of The CW.

Purchasing WCWN will give Freedom a second station in Albany, 55th-largest TV market in the country. Privately owned Freedom already owns CBS affiliate WRGB-TV. The company also owns seven other stations that reach a combined total of more than 3.5 million TV homes in the country.

Tribune has been plagued by a stagnant share price that has prompted a revolt by members of the Chandler family, its second-biggest shareholder. The company on May 30 announced that it will acquire up to 75 million shares of its common stock, sell at least $500 million in assets, and reduce operating expenses by $200 million over the next two years. The group operates 26 stations.

The Chandlers last week called for the company’s television stations to be separated from its publishing business, which operates 11 daily newspapers.

Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom, which owns more than 30 newspapers including the Orange County Register in California, is expanding as Tribune sheds assets.

“The acquisition of WCWN-TV is directly aligned with our strategic initiative to acquire or invest in markets, products and platforms where we can achieve Freedom’s vision by increasing our audience and advertising share in every market we serve,” Freedom CEO Scott Flanders said in a statement.