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RIO JANEIRO — Debt-crippled broadcaster Manchete at last has found a buyer in the form of Sao Paulo communications company the Omega Group.

Pending certain state approval, Omega reportedly will assume Manchete’s estimated $358 million in debt, which is owed to the government, suppliers and the net’s 2,000 employees, who have been unpaid since October.

The deal was signed Sunday by Omega controller Amilcare Dallevo and Manchete owner-president Jaquito Kappeler.

Kappeler, nephew of the broadcaster’s late founder, Adolfo Bloch, will retain control of Manchete’s publishing house and radio stations.

Payment denied

The company said it would not receive any payment, but industry sources contend that Omega, which owns telemarketing company TeleTV, would pay an additional $23.5 million to the Kappeler family.

The deal marks the end of a tortuous period for Manchete, a Rio-based web that enjoyed soaring ratings in 1990 thanks to breast-intensive telenovela “Pantanal,” but went into a slow decline thereafter and only has aired reruns since October.

Manchete was sold in January to Igreja Renascer en Cristo, a religious institution, but the deal was canceled due to the church’s failure to fulfill contract payments.

A similar situation occurred in 1992, when Manchete was sold to Hamilton Lucas de Oliveira, who failed to meet payments; last week, a Rio judge withdrew an injunction by de Oliveira, clearing the way for Manchete’s sale to Omega.