We wanted to put last week’s $2.2 billion Gannett-Belo deal in some sort of historical perspective, and sought out some veteran local TV types to help. It was easily the largest station M&A move since I’ve been covering this stuff since 2007, with Local TV’s pickup of some Fox O&Os and Newport’s grab of the Clear Channel bunch previously setting the high water mark with separate $1.1 billion deals in 2010.
Robin Flynn, SNL Kagan senior analyst, says Gannett-Belo is the sixth largest outright station purchase in history.
Mark Fratrik, chief economist at BIA/Kelsey, says Fox acquired the Chris-Craft-BHC Communications group, which included stations in LA and Minneapolis and New Jersey, for $5.3 billion in 2001.
Of course, there was also the New World Communications blockbuster of 1996–Fox shelling out $2.4 billion for 11 stations.
For another bit of perspective on Gannett-Belo, keep in mind that Sinclair spent around $2 billion on its acquisitions the past year and a half–not quite what Gannett paid for Belo, with Belo’s $715 million of debt that Gannett is assuming factored in.
Will Gannett-Belo be the largest deal of the next decade? It seems unlikely, with all the activity going on.
It may not end up the largest deal of the year.
The Local TV group, which we reported went on the block in March, could easily surpass that $2.2 billion. And who knows what Allbritton, which includes WJLA Washington, will sell for too.