Sinclair: Cunningham May Drag Us into Chapt. 11

Cunningham has 2 1/2 weeks to pay off major tab

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s close relationship with Cunningham Broadcasting might push Sinclair into bankruptcy. The “significant financial and economic challenges” facing Cunningham, whose six stations share LMAs with Sinclair, have a direct impact on Sinclair too, Sinclair executives told the investment community this afternoon.

Cunningham has until July 31 to pay off a $33.5 million debt. Should Cunningham default, Sinclair may be forced into Chapt. 11. Having Cunningham in bankruptcy could impact Sinclair to the tune of $50-$60 million, Sinclair execs said--$26 million in direct contributions for the LMAs, and the rest in annual cost savings and general synergies between the stations.

Baltimore-based Cunningham did not return a call on short notice at presstime.
Sinclair mentioned the possibility of Chapt. 11 in its 8-K filing. “Under certain circumstances, creditors may file an involuntary petition for bankruptcy against us," it said. "Due to the possibility of such circumstances occurring, we have begun planning for such potential restructurings."

Privately-held Cunningham is partially owned by members of Sinclair CEO David Smith’s family. Sinclair had repeatedly tried to buy the stations around five years ago, but was rebuffed by the FCC due to ownership limits in the various markets.

The Cunningham stations include WRGT Dayton and WVAH Charleston-Huntington.

Sinclair owns 58 stations. Its stock finished the day at $1.10.