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Savoy partners to buy Fox affils

In its continuing bid to become an entertainment industry power, Savoy Pictures Entertainment Inc. has set up a company with Fox Television Stations Inc. to buy affiliates of Fox Broadcasting Co.

The move is two-year-old Savoy’s first into television, and still another sign that chairman/CEO Victor A. Kaufman and prexy and chief operating officer Lewis J. Korman want to build a business that looks like their previous stomping ground, TriStar.

“We’ve always wanted to build a diversified entertainment business,” Korman said. “We did that at TriStar.”

With the Fox O&O subsid, Savoy created SF Broadcasting LLC to buy U.S. TV stations, which the company expects will be predominantly Fox affiliates. Thomas Herwitz, who ankled his job as veepee and G.M. of the weblet’s Washington, D.C., affil WTTG in December, was named prexy/CEO of SF Broadcasting.

“We really believe in the Fox network,” Korman said. “They have the same entrepreneurial spirit that we do.”

The company starts with $ 100 million in equity, 41% of which came from Savoy , 58% from Fox and the remaining 1% from a new corporation owned by Kaufman and Korman. That corporation also owns all of the voting interest in SF Broadcasting.

That relationship will shield Fox from Federal Communications Commission ownership limits, which bar companies from controlling more than 12 stations or 25% of the country. The Fox O&O group is comprised of eight stations covering 19 .42% of the U.S. Because Fox will not have a direct management role in SF Broadcasting, the new company’s station acquisitions will have no bearing on the FCC rules.

A Fox spokesman expressed confidence in the management group that will operate the stations. While the company has not lined up any acquisitions, it’s considering its options. “We certainly are actively involved in that process right now,” Herwitz said. “But we have not signed any deals yet.”

For Savoy, the stations clearly will give it another venue for its films. But beyond that, Savoy hopes to use the stations as a way to tap into the entertainment business in markets around the country. Korman said the company would consider investing in entertainment opportunities from movie theaters to sports teams.

“You can try to get into other entertainment business in the markets of those local stations,” Korman said.

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