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Standard General's Tegna deal on the rocks

Tim Baysinger
Feb 27, 2023
Illustration of a television with static leaking out of it as if it were a liquid.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tegna's stock plunged more than 20% Monday morning on fears that its $5.4 billion deal to be bought by Standard General is in grave danger of falling apart.

Why it matters: A collapsed deal would be a massive blow to Tegna and its future and be viewed as a big win for the antitrust camp.

The latest: The FCC on Friday punted its decision on the agreement to an administrative law judge, a move that sent investors to the exits on the notion that further delays will surely scuttle the deal. No date has been set for that hearing.

  • Earlier this month, both parties agreed to push back the merger's termination date to May 22.
  • Tegna said Monday morning that it's "currently evaluating our options" in regard to the deal. It did not hold an earnings call with analysts.

The intrigue: Standard General said it's still planning to go through with the deal and called on the FCC to vote immediately rather than send it to another lengthy review.

  • Standard General's managing partner Soo Kim said, "A decision delayed is a decision denied. Our proposed transaction is consistent with all FCC regulations and precedent. It is bolstered by a voluntary commitment to invest in local news, preserve newsroom jobs, and address purported concerns related to consumer pricing."
  • "But rather than rule on the transaction's merits, as the law requires, the Media Bureau is attempting to scuttle the deal by ordering a wholly unnecessary hearing process, that if left standing by the Commission, would kill the deal," Kim continued.

Be smart: Complicating matters is the FCC's still-deadlocked 2-2 commission; an approval needs at least three "yes" votes.

Catch up quick: Standard General agreed last February to buy Tegna, with financial backing from Apollo Global Management.

  • The deal has gotten stiff pushback from unions, rival cable operators and lawmakers over fears that consolidation will further hamper competition.
  • Another huge pain point is the role that Apollo Global Management — which runs rival station group Cox Media Group — would play. Apollo is helping Standard General fund its Tegna takeover. Cox would own some of the Tegna stations if the deal is approved.

Note: Cox Enterprises, the parent company of Axios, maintains a minority equity stake in Cox Media Group.

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