NBC Has Deal To Sell KWHY In L.A.

NBCU will sell its Spanish-language independent KWHY-TV Los Angeles to investment company The Meruelo Group, subject to FCC approval. The agreement comes before the planned Friday (Jan. 28) close of the Comcast joint venture agreement.

Terms were not disclosed, but Telemundo paid $239 million when it bought the station in 2001.

NBC had originally asked the commission for a temporary, six-month extension of its waiver of the FCC ownership rules to continue owning three stations in the market. The station group promised that within six months of the NBCU-Comcast deal's close, it would either sell KWHY, one of its three stations there, or put it in a trust. But it subsequently indicated it did not need the waiver and would get a deal done.

The company also pledged to try and find a minority buyer as one of a number of pledges by Comcast/NBCU to promote diversity in programming and ownership. NBCU will put the station in a separate trust, Bahia Honday LLC, upon closing of the merger.

The trust will handle the sale and regulatory approval process. The deal is expected to be done by midyear.

"The sale of KWHY to the Meruelo Group meets the diversity commitment made by NBCU in the course of the Comcast-NBCU regulatory process to use its best efforts to ensure that the station is sold to a minority  controlled ownership group. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed," said NBCU in announcing the deal

NBCU enlisted investment bank Moelis & Co. and the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council to help find a buyer for the station with a particular emphasis on minorities and women, given that boosting minority media ownership would then be an additional benefit of the Comcast deal. "The bidding was conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive manner," said MMTC President David Honig. "In fact, it was one of the best-run sales processes that I have seen in any broadcast station disposition," he added.

Jose Cansela manages Bahia Honda LLC, which was formed to operate the station in the event that the deal did not
close by the close of the Comcast aquisition. It now looks like the trust will be operating the station for six months or so.

The Meruelo Group
was formed in 1986 as a holding and investment company controlled by U.S. Latino businessman Alex Meruelo. It has interests in banking, financial services, construction, real estate, food service, and now, if the FCC gives the OK, station ownership.

"As one of the oldest independent Spanish-language television stations in the U.S., KWHY is a station with a great history, and an ongoing mission to serve a vibrant and growing community," said Meruelo in a statement. "We are honored to be the only Latino-owned station in Los Angeles, and look forward to continuing KWHY's proud tradition as we bring the very best in entertainment, news, and community affairs programming to the people of Los Angeles..."

A spokesperson for BKEH-DT
Los Angeles e-mailed B&C to point out that Hero Broadcasting, which
owns that station, is owned by Cuban-born Bob Behar.

NBC said back in May it would sell one of its three L.A. stations
--it chose independent Spanish-language
KWHY--before closing on its joint venture with Comcast, or barring that put the station in a divestiture trust. NBC had originally asked the commission for a temporary, six-month extension of its waiver of the FCC ownership rules to continue owning three stations in the market, but then said it did not need the extra time and would either sell it by the close or put it in the trust, Bahia Honda LLC

NBC picked up co-located KVEA-KWHY in its purchase of Telemundo in 2002. NBC's other L.A. stations are are KNBC and Telemundo affiilate KVEA.

To calm critics who said NBCU had "improperly co-mingled" its L.A. facilities, people and programming--the company said it had not--NBCU told the FCC back in November that while its three L.A. stations have been sharing personnel, after the closing (expected Friday, Jan. 28), whatever employees are mutually agreed upon to still be working for KWHY will no longer work for the other two stations, and there will no longer be sharing of employees.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.