Media mogul Byron Allen appears to be wooing key Democrat politicians again as he seeks to stop a hedge fund takeover of TV broadcast giant Tegna, according to a prominent Beltway research firm.
The Justice Department is just days away from the possible declassification of hedge fund Standard General’s $8.6 billion buyout of Tegna — a publicly traded chain of 64 local television stations that was spun off from newspaper giant Gannett in 2015.
Meanwhile, Allen — who has reportedly been trying to snap up Tegna’s nationwide broadcasting empire to expand distribution of his own burgeoning cable channels — hosted an event for Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), the leader of the House Minority, and Katherine, Minority Whip Clark (D-Mass.) with guests who included Nancy Pelosi, according to Deadline Hollywood.
“We would not be surprised by an upcoming letter from … politicians [at the event] Raising concerns about private equity firm Standard General’s purchase of Tegna to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel,” Washington Analysis, which advises institutional investors on DC policy, wrote in a note to clients last week published by The Post has been checked.
If the DOJ approves the deal, which seems increasingly likely, it would then go to the FCC and Rosenworcel would decide whether to clear it, sources said.
“Any letter from the new leadership of the Democratic House of Representatives would be aimed at putting further pressure on Rosenworcel to ‘pocket’ the transaction by not acting,” the letter said.
A spokesman for Allen replied in a written statement to The Post that “Mr. Allen did not speak to the Democratic Party leadership about Tegna at the party.”
“These claims, implications and predictions are manifestly false,” the spokesman added. “Mr. Allen has simply opened his house to introduce the new Democratic Party leadership to his fellow Democratic Party members.”
In an unusual move, Pelosi sent a letter to FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel in October, expressing “serious concerns” about the deal to buy Tegna. The letter raised eyebrows as Pelosi doesn’t weigh in on many mergers. Tegna does not own any stations in its California district, nor was the merger considered to be of major national importance, sources said.
In the letter, Pelosi, along with Energy and Trade Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr., said they were concerned the deal would increase cable bills, affect local reporting and drive job losses.
In a written response to the FCC, Standard General denied plans to reduce local coverage and eliminate station jobs, calling speculation and saying it had “entered a commitment in FCC records that it did not plan to take any such action.”
More recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to FCC Rosenworcel on Jan. 11 that the merger with Standard General would result in anti-competitive practices.
Former comedian Allen, whose Los Angeles-based Allen Media owns the Weather Channel, has become the proposed merger’s “Forrest Gump,” appearing to appear at every turn of events in the deal’s cycle, Washington Analysis wrote.
“Having failed to raise the necessary funds early on to purchase the assets himself, it is widely believed that he used every available opportunity to test Standard General’s superior offer,” Washington Analysis said.
Last year, Allen pooled $271,300 in campaign donations for Pelosi and gave another $275,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which supports Democratic nominees for the House of Representatives, The Post previously reported.
Allen told the Post his “donations to numerous Democratic politicians and PACs, which began just last year, have nothing to do with Tegna and have everything to do with protecting our democracy.”
Standard General buys Tegna and receives financing from Apollo Global Management. The DOJ’s main question is whether Apollo will have any hand in Tegna management, sources said. Apollo owns Cox Media Group and its 33 television stations, and a merger with Tegna would violate broadcast ownership rules, sources said.
DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter has withdrawn from that merger review because he was a partner at the law firm Paul Weiss, which represents Apollo from 2016 to 2020, sources said.
Cox is bringing his Boston broadcaster, Fox subsidiary WFXT, into the holding company buying Tegna. Tegna planned to adopt the higher WFXT rates from cable distributors compared to Tegna and apply this higher “retransmission” rate to all of its stations.
It is common for station owners to take the station with the highest rate and use that maximum rate for all their stations. But Standard General has now agreed not to use WFXT’s interest rate as a condition of approving the deal, sources said.
https://nypost.com/2023/01/25/byron-allen-wants-democrats-to-derail-tv-tegna-buyout/ Byron Allen wants the Democrats to block the takeover of TV Tegna