Byron Allen reportedly courting Democrats to derail TV-station Tegna buyout

Media mogul Byron Allen appears to be courting top Democratic politicians again as he tries to prevent a hedge fund acquisition of TV giant Tegna, according to a leading Beltway research firm.

The Justice Department is days away from potentially clearing the $8.6 billion takeover by hedge fund Standard General of Tegna – a publicly traded chain of 64 local TV stations that was set up in 2015 by the newspaper giant Gannett.

Meanwhile, Allen – who reportedly sought to nab Tegna’s national broadcasting empire to expand distribution of his own fledgling cable channels – hosted an event at his Los Angeles home on Friday for the house’s minority leader. Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) and Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) with guests that also included Nancy Pelosi, according to Deadline Hollywood.

“We would not be surprised by a next letter from…politicians [at the event] raising concerns about the purchase of Tegna by private equity firm Standard General from FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel,” Washington Analysis, which advises institutional investors on DC policy, wrote in a note to clients. last week which was reviewed by The Post.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies attended an event at Allen’s home in Los Angeles.

If the DOJ approves the deal, which seems increasingly likely, it would then go to the FCC and Rosenworcel would decide whether to allow it or not, sources said.

“Any letter from the new leadership of the House of Democrats would be designed to put additional pressure on Rosenworcel to ‘veto’ the transaction by failing to act,” the letter said.

A spokesperson for Allen responded in a written statement to the Post that “Mr. Allen did not speak to Tegna’s Democratic Party leadership at the party.

Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Jessica Rosenworcel is the president of the FCC.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“These claims, implications and predictions are patently false,” the spokesperson added. “Mr. Allen simply opened his house to introduce the new leadership of the Democratic Party to his fellow Democratic Party supporters.

In an unusual move in October, Pelosi sent a letter to FCC Chairman Rosenworcel expressing “serious concerns” about the deal to buy Tegna. The letter raised eyebrows because Pelosi does not weigh in on many mergers. Tegna does not own any stations in its California district, nor was the merger considered to be of major national significance, sources said.

In the letter, Pelosi, along with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., said she was concerned the deal would increase cable bills, hurt local news coverage and does not lead to job losses.

In a written response to the FCC, Standard General denied plans to cut local coverage and cut station jobs, calling them speculation and saying it “committed itself to the FCC file to not foresee such actions”.

Nancy Pelosi
In October, Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to FCC Chairman Rosenworcel expressing “serious concerns” about the Tegna deal.

More recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote on January 11 to FCC Rosenworcel to say that the Standard General merger would result in anti-competitive practices.

Former comedian Allen, whose Los Angeles-based Allen Media owns the Weather Channel, has become the “Forrest Gump” of the proposed merger, seemingly making an appearance at every turn of events in the deal cycle. writes Washington Analysis.

“After his failure to secure the necessary funds early on to purchase the assets himself, it is widely believed that he took every available opportunity to take shots at Standard General’s top bid,” Washington Analysis said. .

Last year, Allen bundled $271,300 in campaign donations for Pelosi and gave another $275,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which backs Democratic House candidates, The Post previously reported.

Senator Elizabeth Warren
More recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren also wrote to Rosenworcel, warning of the resulting anti-competitive practices.

Allen told the Post that his “donations to many Democratic and PAC politicians that only started last year have nothing to do with Tegna and everything to do with protecting our democracy.”

Standard General acquires Tegna and obtains funding from Apollo Global Management. The DOJ’s main question is whether Apollo will participate in the management of Tegna, sources said. Apollo owns the Cox Media Group and its 33 TV channels and combining it with Tegna would be in breach of broadcast ownership rules, sources said.

DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter recused himself from that merger review because of his status as a partner at law firm Paul Weiss who represented Apollo from 2016 to 2020, sources said.

Cox brings his Boston station, PKB subsidiary WFXT, to the holding company that buys Tegna. Tegna planned to take the higher rate that WFXT charges cable companies compared to Tegna and apply that higher “retransmission” rate to all of its stations.

It is common for station owners to take their station that charges the most and use that highest rate for all of their stations. But Standard General has now agreed not to apply WFXT’s rate as a condition for its deal to be approved, sources said.

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