Gannett-Belo: Jack Is Back

Former Belo group chief Sander and ex-Fisher boss Ben Tucker to expand their local TV roles when the megadeal closes

RELATED: Gannett
Acquiring Belo for $2.2 Billion

Station Consolidation Nation

While the proposed Belo-to-Gannett deal has numerous juicy
aspects to it, including the price tag,
another compelling angle is the big-name broadcast
veterans it will put back in the spotlight.

Jack Sander, former Belo group chief, and
Ben Tucker, former chief at the Fisher group,
were tapped by Gannett for new roles. And if
their track records are any indication, it won’t
be as figureheads.

When the deal is signed off on by the FCC,
Sander Media will hold the licenses to six
current Belo stations in five
overlapping markets, while
Tucker Media Management
and Consulting will own one.
Gannett will provide services
to the stations.

Sander, 71, stepped down
as Belo vice chairman at the
end of 2006 and has been enjoying
family time while working
with Phoenix production
outfit MagicDust Television.
“I’ll be fully engaged,” vows
Sander of his new role.

Respected Voices

Gannett gets a pair of
executives who command considerable respect
on Capitol Hill, which should facilitate
regulatory matters. Sander and Tucker are
also well-known quantities to Dave Lougee,
Gannett Broadcasting president. Sander hired
Lougee to run KING Seattle in 1998, and
Tucker was running the Fisher group in Seattle
at the time.

“Jack and I brought a trust factor to the table,”
says Tucker, “and Dave was able to move forward
[with the acquisition].” Lougee did not
respond to a request for comment.

Sander is a former National Association of
Broadcasters joint board chairman and a member
of B&C’s Hall of Fame. He calls himself “a
small, insignificant part” of the megadeal, but
those who know him insist he’ll be hands-on.
“Jack is a great broadcaster, and I can’t believe
he’s just going to sit on the sidelines,” says
a group chief who asked not to be named.
“Whether it’s the NAB or BMI
[Sander is a board member of
Broadcast Music Inc.], Jack
really goes in there.”

Sander’s station markets are
Phoenix, St. Louis, Louisville,
Portland (Ore.) and Tucson.
“They’re familiar markets and
familiar stations,” he says.
Sander agrees he will be active,
but says he knows enough
about local television to know
when to leave them alone. “A
good general manager knows
what the needs are in that
community better than someone
at headquarters,” he says.

Fully Licensed

While Sander is pegged to own KMSB Tucson,
Tucker will own the license to KTTU, the
MyNetworkTV station in Tucson. Tucker has
played a similar role at WGTU Traverse City
(Mich.), which Barrington has serviced. (Sinclair
has agreed to acquire the Barrington group.)

Tucker, 66, says he will help KTTU with
sales and social media strategy as well as programming
decisions, but starting up local
news is unlikely. “I’ll make sure our strategy
is serving the local community and that we are
aggressive in the market,” Tucker says.

Gannett’s $2.2 billion deal dominated local
TV discussions until news broke July 1 of
Tribune acquiring Local TV for $2.7 billion.

Sander believes the Gannett-Belo deal is a
win for local broadcasting. “I’m thrilled for
both companies,” he says. “I’m optimistic
they’ll be able to sustain the good local news
and community service they’re known for.”

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