WFLS and Sister Stations to Be Sold
In a November 26 letter, the FCC informed Sandton it had one year to comply with the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership restriction (NBCO ) by divesting itself of the Free Lance-Star or radio stations WFLS, WVBX (formerly WYSK), WWUZ and WNTX. Sandton principal Rob Orr told staff in an email, reported December 3 on fredericksburg.com, the company had decided to keep the newspaper and sell the radio assets.
“While we are pleased to have the broadcast licenses fully transferred to us, we must also acknowledge that the FCC ruling requires a divestiture within 12 months,” Sandton principal Rob Orr wrote. “During the approval process, the company presented what we believed were strong arguments to maintain the previously grandfathered exemption regarding cross ownership of the Star Radio Group and The Free Lance–Star, but we simultaneously planned for this contingency,” he said. “We will, of course, fully comply with the FCC’s order and look forward to saying more about our specific plans for divesting the Star Radio Group in the future.”
Sandton Capital Partners had petitioned the FCC for a waiver NBCO, which was instituted in 1975 as a way to prevent media monopolies in local markets. The restriction did not apply to The Free Lance–Star Publishing Co., because it had been in the Rowe family for about 100 years.
Sandton, a New York based company, and DPS, its limited partnership in the Cayman Islands, purchased the Free Lance-Star Company’s $38 million BB&T loan balance in the summer of 2013, which lead to the publishing company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Jan 23, 2014. Nine companies participated in the May 2014 auction for its assets, according to FLS attorney Lynn Tavenner. Sandton submitted the winning bid of $30.2 million.
FCC Rules Free Lance-Star, Radio Stations Split