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ABRY CHOICE IS CLEAR; SULLIVAN TO TOP ACT III

ABRY Partners Inc., fresh from spending $500 million to acquire Act III Broadcasting from Norman Lear, will tap Clear Channel TV president Dan Sullivan to run a new company that will oversee the stations.

Sullivan is expected to exit his president/chief operating officer post after seven years with Clear Channel to become president-CEO of Sullivan Broadcasting Co., a partnership between himself and Boston based ABRY that will put Sullivan in charge of the eight Act III stations and future acquisitions. Sullivan also will make what is described as a significant investment in the new company in return for an ownership stake and stock options.

Act III Broadcasting president Richard Ballinger is expected to move to a consulting role for the group upon Sullivan’s arrival.

Clear Channel has not named a replacement for Sullivan, but in the interim it is expected that Clear Channel Communications president Lowry Mays will oversee the TV station group.

Sullivan will exit one of the most active station groups to join ABRY, which only recently began buying stations again. Clear Channel owns nine TV stations and has ties to five other stations through local marketing agreements. It is one of the largest group owners, with stations in large and midsize markets. The bulk of the Clear Channel stations are affiliated with Fox.

During his stay, Sullivan is credited with building the TV group into one of the strongest in the industry, with cash flow increasing by more than 80% annually and revenues increasing by almost 50% over seven years. ABRY, meanwhile, has a war chest of about $250 million and still is on the lookout for midsize and major-market TV stations. ABRY also has not ruled out going public or taking the Sullivan Broadcasting Co. public. In addition to the Act III stations, ABRY owns indies KSMO Kansas City and WSTR Cincinnati. However, Baltimore-based group owner Sinclair Broadcasting has an option to acquire those properties.