By Chuck Taylor Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Local ownership of a Puget Sound broadcasting icon will end soon when Sinclair Broadcast Group of Hunt Valley, Md., acquires Fisher Communications, owner of the KOMO television and radio brand, for about $373 million.
The two publicly traded companies announced the deal Thursday, ending a long saga of uncertainty for Seattle-based Fisher, a 102-year-old company which has long struggled as a mid-sized broadcasting chain.
Over the past decade, Fisher sold most of two-dozen radio stations and even the state-of-the-art Fisher Plaza headquarters in the shadow of the Space Needle, which it now occupies as a tenant. It also was the victim of a hostile takeover by a hedge fund.
In 2011, FrontFour Capital Group of Stamford, Conn., which had been accumulating shares in Fisher, succeeded in getting two candidates elected to the Fisher board. Fisher’s management at the time had urged shareholders to reject four FrontFour nominees. Today FrontFour owns more than 5 percent of Fisher shares.
Fisher announced in January it was considering options for shareholders. When the transaction with Sinclair is complete, there will be no local owners among Seattle’s network television outlets.
Fisher is best known locally as the one and only owner of KOMO-TV, Seattle’s ABC affiliate on channel 4, and all-news KOMO-AM-FM (1000, 97.7). It also owns conservative talk station KVI-AM (570) and pop-music station KPLZ-FM (101.5), better known as Star 101.5. For a time in the 1940s, the company owned KJR-AM (950).
Today Fisher also owns 19 other television stations in eight markets. Overall, Fisher stations reach 4 percent of U.S. households with TVs. Besides KOMO in Seattle, the nation’s 12th-biggest TV market, they include ABC affiliate KATU in Portland, KIMA in Yakima, KEPR in the Tri-Cities, KVAL in Eugene and KBOI in Boise.
In a news release, Fisher and Sinclair said the transaction is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, antitrust clearance and approval by holders of two-thirds of Fisher’s outstanding shares of stock. Under terms of the deal, Fisher shareholders will receive $41 per share. Fisher stock closed Thursday at $41.09, up more than 5 percent.
Fisher began as a Seattle flour-milling company in 1910. In 1926, KOMO-AM began broadcasting. KOMO-TV signed on in 1953 and became Seattle’s ABC station in 1959. The company grew from there, with KATU-TV in Portland signing on in 1962.
After the acquisition, Sinclair will own or operate 134 television stations in 69 markets, reaching about 34 percent of U.S. TV households, the company said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.