Apollo Global Management affiliates will buy a majority stake in Cox Media Group's broadcast TV stations, Cox announced Friday.
Cox Enterprises will still maintain a minority stake. Apollo and Cox will form a new company headquartered in Atlanta to operate the stations, according to the press release, and Apollo Funds will also acquire a majority stake in Cox's radio and newspaper properties in Ohio.
Cox's TV stations, which span cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, Seattle, and Boston, reach a combined 31 million viewers across the country, according to the company. Cox announced last year that it wanted to sell its 14 TV stations as the broadcast industry continues to consolidate and take on pay-TV providers, which pay retransmission fees to broadcasters for the right to carry their stations.
CNBC previously reported that TEGNA, Hearst and EW Scripps were planning to submit final bids for the TV stations prior to Cox's deadline at the end of last month, according to people familiar with the matter. Nexstar had also been interested in a bid before removing itself from the running after announcing a $4.1 billion deal for Tribune in December.
–CNBC's Alex Sherman contributed to this report.
Here is the full announcement from Cox:
Cox Enterprises Inc. today announced that it has reached an agreement with funds (the "Apollo Funds") managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, LLC (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, "Apollo") (NYSE: APO) to buy a majority interest in Cox Media Group's broadcast television stations, including the company's radio, newspaper and TV properties in Ohio. Cox Enterprises will maintain a minority stake and will join the Apollo Funds in forming a new company to operate these stations, which will be headquartered in Atlanta, Ga.
Cox Media Group's high-performing TV stations serve some of the most desirable markets in the country and reach a combined 31 million viewers nationwide. With a deep focus on investigative journalism, these TV stations are leading local news and information outlets, and cornerstones of the communities they serve. The stations, which represent Cox Media Group's entire television portfolio, are:
WSB-TV, ABC Atlanta, Ga.
WFTV-TV, ABC Orlando, Fla.
WRDQ-TV, Independent Orlando, Fla.
WSOC-TV, ABC Charlotte, N.C.
WAXN-TV, Independent Charlotte, N.C.
WPXI-TV, NBC Pittsburgh, Pa.
WHIO-TV, CBS Dayton, Ohio
KIRO-TV, CBS Seattle, Wash.
WHBQ-TV FOX, Memphis, Tenn.
WFOX-TV, FOX Jacksonville, Fla.
WFXT-TV, FOX Boston, Mass.
KOKI-TV, FOX Tulsa, Okla.
KMYT-TV, My Network Tulsa Okla.
Cox Media Group also provides proramming, sales and other operations services for WJAX-TV, CBS Jacksonville, Fla.
In addition to WHIO-TV, the Apollo Funds will acquire a majority stake in Cox Media Group's other media platforms in Ohio:
Dayton Daily News
WZLR, 95.3 FM and 101.1 FM
WHKO, 99.1 FM
WHIO, 95.7 FM and 1290 AM
Cox Enterprises began exploring strategic alternatives for the stations last July with the goal of finding a motivated strategic partner with a shared vision for the future and the resources to continue investing in the business to build scale. Apollo intends to maintain the successful management and operating structure Cox Media Group's TV business has created.
"These stations have decades of experience breaking barriers and delivering the news and information their communities need daily," said Alex Taylor, president and CEO, Cox Enterprises. "We wanted to find a company that is committed to investing in broadcast television now and in the future, and we found that in Apollo."
"We are extremely excited for our funds to acquire a majority interest in Cox Media Group's broadcast television stations and are humbled by Cox Enterprises' decision to entrust us to steward these stations and carry on the Cox legacy. We have an extraordinary amount of respect and admiration for the journalistic integrity, news quality, and commitment to community across Cox Media Group's broadcast stations," said David Sambur, Senior Partner at Apollo. "We look forward, in collaboration with Cox Enterprises, to supporting the high standards to which each station operates and contributing to the platform's future growth and prosperity."
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory review and closing conditions.
Barclays PLC, Moelis & Company LLC and BDT & Company, LLC served as the financial advisors and Eversheds Sutherland LLP and Covington & Burling LLP served as the legal advisors to Cox Enterprises in this transaction.
RBC Capital Markets LLC, Guggenheim Partners LLC, and LionTree Advisors, LLC served as the financial advisors and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Greenberg Traurig, LLP served as the legal advisors to the Apollo Funds in this transaction.