Cox, Apollo agree to form private company

Cox Enterprises and Apollo Global Management LLC have agreed to form a new privately held company to operate Cox’s broadcast television stations, including WHIO-TV, the Dayton Daily News and its other Ohio-based radio and newspaper brands.

Cox Enterprises announced Friday it has reached an agreement with funds managed by affiliates of the private equity company to buy a majority interest in the Cox portfolio of 14 television stations.

Apollo — a $280 billion private equity company that owns businesses around the world — intends to maintain the management and operating structure Cox Media Group’s TV business has created, Cox said in a statement.

“These stations have decades of experience breaking barriers and delivering the news and information their communities need daily,” said Alex Taylor, president and chief executive of Cox Enterprises. “We wanted to find a company that is committed to investing in broadcast television now and in the future, and we found that in Apollo.”

Cox Enterprises said it will maintain a minority stake and will join the Apollo Funds in forming a new privately held company to operate these stations, which will be headquartered in Atlanta, Ga.

“We are extremely excited for our funds to acquire a majority interest in Cox Media Group’s broadcast television stations and are humbled by Cox Enterprises’ decision to entrust us to steward these stations and carry on the Cox legacy,” said David Sambur, senior partner at Apollo. “We have an extraordinary amount of respect and admiration for the journalistic integrity, news quality and commitment to community across Cox Media Group’s broadcast stations.

“We look forward, in collaboration with Cox Enterprises, to supporting the high standards to which each station operates and contributing to the platform’s future growth and prosperity,” Sambur added.

The transaction will be subject to a federal regulatory approval process that is expected to take approximately six months.

The Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV and its radio stations operate jointly in a combined news-gathering and advertising business.

“The thing that makes Dayton so unique is the way that media properties operate together,” Taylor said in an interview Friday. “It’s one property.”

Upon transfer of the properties, there is no intent to change the way those properties operate, he said.

Cox Media Group said its TV stations “serve some of the most desirable markets in the country and reach a combined 31 million viewers nationwide.”

“With a deep focus on investigative journalism, these TV stations are leading local news and information outlets, and cornerstones of the communities they serve,” Cox said.

The history of Cox Enterprises began in 1898 with company founder James M. Cox buying the Dayton Evening News with its Associated Press franchise for $26,000.

Cox changed that paper’s name to the Dayton Daily News and went on to grow and diversify the company, creating Cox’s first radio station, WHIO, which first went on the air in February 1935.

Taylor expressed confidence in Apollo.

“Our people, our hometown, our businesses are what they’re investing in, and they want to expand it,” he said.

Cox Enterprises first announced last July it was exploring strategic alternatives for the stations, with the goal of finding “a motivated strategic partner with a shared vision for the future and the resources to continue investing in the business to build scale.”

No value for the transaction was given Friday.

A name for the new company will be determined later.

The deal includes Cox’s Ohio newspapers, the Journal-News and Springfield News-Sun, and radio stations, WHKO, 99.1 FM; WHIO, 95.7 FM and 1290 AM; and WZLR, 95.3 FM and 101.1 FM.

The stations, which represent Cox Media Group’s entire television portfolio, are:

WSB-TV, ABC Atlanta, Ga.

WFTV-TV, ABC Orlando, Fla.

WRDQ-TV, Independent Orlando, Fla.

WSOC-TV, ABC Charlotte, N.C.

WAXN-TV, Independent Charlotte, N.C.

WPXI-TV, NBC Pittsburgh, Pa.

WHIO-TV, CBS Dayton, Ohio

KIRO-TV, CBS Seattle, Wash.

WHBQ-TV FOX, Memphis, Tenn.

WFOX-TV, FOX Jacksonville, Fla.

WFXT-TV, FOX Boston, Mass.

KOKI-TV, FOX Tulsa, Okla.

KMYT-TV, My Network Tulsa Okla.

Cox Media Group also provides programming, sales and other operations services for WJAX-TV, CBS Jacksonville, Fla.

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