"The collapse of the merger is great news for dozens of local communities that will be spared Sinclair's slanted coverage and ridiculous must-runs.", said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, referring to commentary segments produced at the corporate level that Sinclair requires its stations to broadcast.
Sinclair, which owns 192 stations, said in May 2017 that it planned to acquire Chicago-based Tribune´s 42 TV stations in 33 markets in a deal that would significantly expand its reach.
Sinclair is the nation's largest local broadcaster, reaching about 4 in 10 US households through TV stations. On Thursday, Kern said that any further delays would hurt his company - so the Tribune board made a decision to spike the deal.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Delaware Chancery Court, Tribune Media alleges Sinclair breached its contractual obligations "in spectacular fashion" in a bid to maintain control of WGN-TV and other stations.
Sinclair did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside business hours.
Tribune claims Sinclair used "unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations" with the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission over regulatory requirements and refused to sell the stations it needed to. "Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the Merger Agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable", he added.
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Sinclair has become a significant outlet for conservative views. Sinclair has been scrutinized for its ties to the Trump administration.
Tribune employees were notified that the deal was off in a lengthy early-morning memo from Kern that blasted Sinclair and said Tribune had done "everything it was supposed to do".
Nexstar Media Group (NXST.O) and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O), partnering with private equity, had considering buying Tribune before Sinclair announced its deal and are likely bidders, analysts have said.
The Maryland company said Thursday in a prepared statement that the Tribune lawsuit is "entirely without merit".
Sinclair said in a statement it did not mislead the FCC, but acknowledged the hearing process would've been a "long and burdensome process" and not in the best interest of Tribune's company and shareholders. By one estimate, the combined company would have owned stations in almost 3 out of 4 US households, controlling an enormous amount of the content Americans see on local stations.
Sinclair has defended the decision to have its anchors read from the same script across the country as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.