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Saints Owner Grabs WVUE

Emmis Communications has agreed to sell WVUE New Orleans to Louisiana Media Company, whose principal owner is New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The purchase price for the Fox affiliate is $41 million.

 “We have enjoyed a great relationship with Tom in the past as a broadcaster of Saints games, and it is particularly gratifying to transfer stewardship of this remarkable station to someone who is so committed to the New Orleans community,” said Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan. “Tom is getting a station that is stronger than ever.”

 Emmis announced it was exiting the TV business to focus on radio in May 2005, and this sale completes Emmis’ TV divestiture. Its 16 stations sold for approximately $1.24 billion, the company said. “Our results from selling these stations have delivered substantial value to our shareholders and positioned us to focus on our core radio and publishing operations,” said Smulyan.

 The New Orleans DMA, which slid 10 spots to #53 post-Hurricane Katrina, lost about 20% of its population after the storm. According to BIA Financial, WVUE was the #3 grossing New Orleans station in 2006, grabbing $16.3 million. It won primetime in February and trailed WWL in late news.