Scripps, Journal Communications to Combine TV Stations, Spinoff Newspapers

Two more TV station groups are merging in an effort to achieve greater scale and separate broadcast and newspaper holdings.

E.W. Scripps Co. has set a deal with Journal Communications that will create two public companies: one housing their combined broadcast and digital assets, the other housing newspapers including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Ventura County Star and Knoxville News Sentinel.

The TV station company, based in Cincinnati, will retain the E.W. Scripps moniker while the newspaper company will become Journal Media Group, based in Milwaukee. Scripps shareholders will own majority stakes in both companies, but the deal still marks a symbolic retreat from the newspaper business for Scripps, one of the nation’s oldest family newspaper dynasties.

Rich Boehne, chairman-president-CEO of Scripps, will continue to lead the TV company. Scripps’ Tim Stautberg will become president-CEO of Journal Media Group.

“In one motion, we’re creating an industry-leading local television company and a financially flexible newspaper company with the capacity and vision to help lead the evolution of their respective industries,” said Boehne. “Making the combinations even more appealing are the rich histories of these two organizations, both driven by a deep commitment to public service through enterprise journalism. For shareholders, this deal should unlock significant value as both companies gain efficiency, scale and more focus on the industry dynamics unique to these businesses.”

Scripps at present owns 21 TV stations in mid- and small-sized markets. Journal has 14 outlets, mostly in smaller markets. The combined TV company will enhance Scripps’ position as one of the nation’s largest owners of ABC affiliates, among other Big Three network affils.

Journal Media Group will emerge from the transaction with a debt-free balance sheet buoyed by $10 million in cash. That’s a stark difference from recent publishing spinoff deals set by Tribune and Time Warner in which publishing units were forced to shoulder significant debt.

If the Scripps-Journal tie-up is approved by shareholders, Scripps shareholders will wind up with 69% of the new Scripps and 59% of Journal Media Group. Scripps’ ownership is already dominated by the family trust that has controlled the company, and its Scripps Networks Interactive sibling, for decades.

Scripps shareholders will also receive a special $60 million cash dividend.

 

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