Sinclair might sell up to $1B in TV stations to complete Tribune deal

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. received bids for as many as 10 television stations that could fetch up to $1 billion as it takes steps to win approval of its proposed merger with Tribune Media Co., people familiar with the matter said.

Preliminary bids for the stations were submitted last week, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the process wasn’t public. Sinclair may sell some or all of the outlets, all in different markets, the people said.

The process could be delayed by uncertainty over whether President Donald Trump’s appointees will change rules limiting media ownership and how the administration will enforce antitrust laws, the people said.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has told an opponent of the Sinclair-Tribune deal that the agency may review media ownership rules before ruling on the $3.9 billion transaction between the nation's two largest TV station owners.

Chicago-based Tribune owns Indianapolis-based stations WTTV-Channel 4 and WXIN-TV Channel 59. WTTV is the city's CBS affiliate and WXIN is the local Fox affiliate. Some industry observers are predicting cuts at the local stations after Sinclair closes the acquisition.

Sinclair, a conservative-leaning broadcaster, said in an FCC filing this month that it’s working with Moelis & Co. on potential transactions and that it hadn't identified which stations it might sell. The FCC is one of two agencies vetting the deal that, as originally proposed, would bring Sinclair 42 more stations and a presence in top markets including New York and Los Angeles.

Sinclair could push ahead with a sale to ease approval under current rules or it might put the process on hold in hopes of a better outcome later, the people said.

One possible suitor for some of the stations might be a partnership between 21st Century Fox Inc. and Ion Media Networks Inc.

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