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KPLR among 23 stations being sold to clear Sinclair's takeover of Tribune Media

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Sinclair Broadcast Group said Tuesday it will sell 23 television stations, including KPLR (Channel 11), after it completes its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co.

The sales will help the broadcast company secure the necessary governmental approval of the Tribune transaction, the company said, as it has worked for months to win regulatory approval for the deal.

Sinclair said KPLR will be sold to Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corp., which already owns KMOV (Channel 4), the CBS affiliate in St. Louis.

Meredith said separately it will pay $65 million for the station, “subject to certain purchase price adjustments.”

As part of the Tribune deal, Sinclair will become the new owner of KTVI (Channel 2), the Fox affiliate in St. Louis. It already owns KDNL (Channel 30), the ABC affiliate.

Sinclair, which is already the largest broadcast station owner in the United States, announced plans last May to acquire Tribune’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets, extending its reach to 72 percent of American households. It was not immediately clear what percentage of the country it would reach after the divestitures.

The Sinclair-Tribune deal still needs to be approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, but approval is expected by the end of June, Sinclair said Tuesday.

“After a very robust divestiture process, with strong interest from many parties, we have achieved healthy multiples on the stations we are divesting,” said Sinclair chief executive Chris Ripley in a statement. “While we continue to believe that we had a strong and supportable rationale for not having to divest stations, we are happy to announce this significant step.”

Sinclair said after closing the Tribune deal it will own, operate and/or provide services to 215 television stations, including servicing some of the stations it is divesting.

Earlier this month, 12 U.S. senators asked the FCC to investigate Sinclair for “deliberately distorting news” after local news anchors at Sinclair stations around the country were told to read company-mandated scripts. The scripts criticized “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.” Sinclair has defended the scripts.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rejected the request, saying the agency does not have authority to revoke a license based on the content of a particular newscast.

Democrats have attacked Pai for what they claim are a string of FCC decisions benefiting Sinclair and a news media report that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign struck a deal with Sinclair for favorable coverage. Pai has repeatedly denied he has taken actions aimed at benefiting Sinclair. Sinclair has also denied improper conduct.

KPLR, currently a CW affiliate, was founded in 1959 by hotelier and businessman Harold Koplar. The station began broadcasting from a converted apartment building on Lindell Boulevard near his hotel, the Chase Park Plaza.

In 1997, Acme Communications began operating the station under a local marketing agreement with Koplar Communications. It bought control the next year for a reported $150 million. Tribune acquired the station in 2002.

Once the KPLR acquisition is complete, Meredith said it will own 18 television stations that reach 11 percent of TV households in the U.S. In addition to its broadcast properties, Meredith also owns several dozen consumer-oriented magazines, including Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. The company recently acquired Time Inc.

Among the 23 stations Sinclair said it is selling are Tribune’s flagship, WGN-TV in Chicago, as well as stations in Denver, Cleveland and San Diego.

In addition to Meredith, buyers include Standard Media Group, Howard Stirk and Cunningham Broadcasting Corp.

Reuters and the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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