Monday, June 05, 2006

Tribune divestitures begin with TV station

By David B. Wilkerson, MarketWatch
Last Update: 10:22 AM ET Jun 5, 2006

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) - Tribune Co., which said last week that it would pursue at least $500 million in asset sales, said it would sell its Atlanta WB affiliate to Gannett Co. for $180 million.

Tribune (TRB) agreed to sell WATL-TV, Channel 36, in a deal that will give Gannett (GCI) ownership of two TV stations in the Atlanta market. Gannett already owns NBC affiliate WXIA-TV. That would gives Gannett three duopolies, including Jacksonville, Fla., and one pending in Denver.

WATL will become an affiliate of MyNetworkTV in September when WB is shut down. MyNetworkTV, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS), is a new sister network of Fox Broadcasting (FOX) that will debut this fall.

Tribune said May 30 that it would sell at least $500 million in certain non-core broadcasting and publishing assets outside its top three markets - Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The announcement came in conjunction with news that the company would buy back as many as 75 million of its shares.

Shares of Tribune were up 6 cents at $30 in morning trading, while Gannett was down 36 cents at $53.95.

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