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The bidding begins for Multimedia’s menagerie

The bids are starting to come in for Multimedia Inc., but it’s a bit like a smorgasbord. Every bidder seems most interested in a different part of the feast – the stations, newspapers or cable properties.

NBC has teamed up with Media General Inc. to make an offer for Multimedia Inc. in the first round of bidding for the diversified media concern.

Other bids came from station group owner Ellis Communications, which owns several network affiliates, and from Gannett Co., while partial bids were made by several parties including King World Prods. A full bid for Multimedia could cost up to $1.9 billion.

Multimedia, which owns TV stations, newspapers and cable properties as well as an entertainment division producing talkshows such as “Donahue” and “Sally Jesse Raphael,” announced in February that it had hired investment firm Goldman Sachs to help it “explore strategic alternatives,” including a sale of the company.

Round one completed

The first round of offers was due 10 days ago, and Goldman is believed to be now sorting through the list before narrowing it down for the second round, where potential bidders are given access to detailed financial information about Multimedia and expected to come back with their best offers.

NBC is known to be interested in Multimedia’s stations, which include four NBC affiliates. It may also be interested in Multimedia’s entertainment division, but is unlikely to want any other of the assets.

Media General, on the other hand, already owns a group of regional newspapers as well as some TV stations and cable systems, making it an ideal partner for NBC. A spokesman for Media General confirmed June 9 that the company was “interested” in Multimedia, but he refused to comment on suggestions that Media General had allied with NBC. A spokeswoman for NBC refused to comment on Media General, although she repeated past statements that the network was “interested in exploring options” for dealing with a Multimedia bid.

The most unexpected bidder for the whole company was privately held Ellis Communications, which owns 12 TV stations and two radio stations, as well as sports programming syndie Raycom. Ellis chairman Bert Ellis confirmed his bid June 9.

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