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Year One of Gray-Young Deal Passes With Gray Still On Sidelines

A year has passed since Gray Television's deal to manage seven Young Broadcasting stations kicked in, yet Gray remains stuck on the sidelines until it gets the green light from Young. Gray has been paid $2.2 million by Young in year one of a three-year deal.

It's one of the more peculiar arrangements in local TV's recent history. Gray TV President/COO Robert Prather says Young, reborn as New Young Broadcasting after being taken over by its senior lenders, continues to pay on time.

New Young held a meeting in Nashville last week for its top management. Attendees say the mood was positive: the stations are healthy amidst a rich economic recovery, and the board has vowed to invest major capital in the local outlets, which include WKRN Nashville and WBAY Green Bay. Vincent Young remains in charge, and troop morale is said to be optimistic.

Less rosy is Gray's management deal. Despite turning on the fee meter last summer, Young has told Gray's management to sit tight through the various court proceedings Young has been tied up in much of the past year.

Some believe the arrangement has been downgraded to a consulting deal for Gray, but Prather says the terms of engagement have not changed.

A batch of Gray general managers will reportedly be assigned a Young station to oversee, with Young keeping a GM in place at each station. As the principals have said for months, they insist Gray will commence its management of the seven stations in the near future. "We hope to start in the next few days-or next few weeks," says Prather.

New York-based New Young Broadcasting did not return a call seeking comment.

The company, which had been saddled by massive debt related to its acquisition of KRON San Francisco a decade ago, entered bankruptcy in February 2009. That enabled "New Young" to emerge free from $800 million of debt.

Managers at both Atlanta-based Gray and Young say Gray's regional execs will soon start reviewing the budgets at the Young stations, and report back to the New Young board.

"It's moving forward," said one manager who asked not to be identified. "It's just moving slowly."