‘No way’ lead ABC6 bidder would shut newsroomFebruary 11th, 2011 at 9:46 am by Ted Nesi under General Talk
There is “no way” the New York company that’s emerged as the top bidder for WLNE-TV ABC 6 would close the station’s newsroom to save money if it takes over the channel, the firm’s founder and CEO told me this morning.
“We are very committed to news,” Citadel Communications Co. Ltd. CEO Phil Lombardo said in a phone interview with WPRI.com. ”All of our properties are very committed to news.”
Matthew McGowan, ABC 6′s court-appointed receiver, revealed Thursday that Bronxville, N.Y.-based Citadel is the “stalking-horse” bidder for the station. Other potential buyers have until March 18 to submit their own offers, and the new owner will be selected March 22, WLNE said.
Lombardo confirmed that Citadel has offered to pay $4 million for ABC 6. That’s 70% less than the $14 million that Kevin O’Brien’s Global Broadcasting of Southern New England paid to buy WLNE from Freedom Communications in 2007.
Citadel owns four TV stations in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, three of them ABC affiliates and the fourth a CBS affiliate, Lombardo said. The company is not related to radio giant Citadel Broadcasting, which owns WPRO-AM and other local stations.
“I think Providence is a great market,” Lombardo said. “It’s a state capital, and I think that we can take that facility and make it into a very competitive and good citizen of the community.”
ABC 6 has struggled financially for years. Its revenue from advertising and other sources fell from $15.1 million in 2000 to $5.9 million in 2009, according to BIA Financial Network Inc., a Virginia research firm. But Lombardo said he was confident his team can turn it around.
“I know the station has had problems in the past and that doesn’t deter me at all,” he said. “I think that the way we operate can make it a very successful entity and a good citizen of the community.”
Lombardo also said Citadel would move quickly to convert WLNE-TV to a high-definition signal, which no station in Providence has done yet. “We’ll be the first ones,” he declared.
While WLNE isn’t located near Citadel’s other TV stations, Providence and Bronxville are not too far from each other, Lombardo pointed out. “That’s part of the attraction – I can be there in no time at all,” he said.
Lombardo is a former joint board chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, according to his biography. He said he founded Citadel in 1982 with a cluster of East Coast stations. Those were later sold and the Midwest stations were picked up.
Disclosure: My employer obviously has a vested interest in the future of the Providence television market.
Update: Looks like Citadel made a much smaller acquisition recently. RBR.com reports the company paid about $150,000 for W48CN, a low-power station in Sarasota, Fla., last month.
(photo: National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation)