Cox Enterprises to sell majority stake in TV stations to Apollo

Cox Enterprises to sell majority stake in TV stations to Apollo

ATLANTA — Cox Enterprises on Friday announced a deal to sell a majority stake in its portfolio of 14 television stations, including WPXI-TV, to an international investment firm. The TV properties will become part of a new media company headquartered in Atlanta.

Investment funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management will hold the controlling interest in the Cox Media Group television properties, as well as Cox's newspapers and radio stations in Ohio. Cox, a privately held broadband, automotive services and media company based in Sandy Springs, will remain a minority owner of the new company.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, which could take about six months.

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In July, Cox said it would explore strategic options for its television properties, and at the time said that could include partnering or merging its stations into a larger company.

The regional television industry has seen a wave of consolidation. Much like the newspaper and radio industries, the broadcast TV business has battled a shift in advertising dollars to internet rivals, including Google and Facebook. But fees stations collect from cable operators remain potent sources of revenue.

Cox’s stations are among the best-performing in the industry. TV operators, clamoring for scale amid expected changes in regulatory conditions, coveted the Cox portfolio. Some 11 bidders, which Cox declined to name, expressed interest in the stations.

"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."

Apollo is an international investment company and managed about $280 billion in assets at the end of 2018. The company’s business lines include private equity, real estate and credit, and the business has subsidiaries in chemicals, retail, financial services, hospitality and media.

Apollo is a new entrant into the local broadcast television business. A recent Reuters report said Apollo is bidding for some stations from Nexstar Media Group and has an agreement to purchase stations from Northwest Broadcasting, an operator of local TV stations in the Pacific Northwest region.