Originally created 01/16/99

Fox station changes hands



Fisher Cos. Inc. has agreed to buy the broadcasting assets of Retlaw Enterprises, including local television station WFXG (Channel 54), for $215 million.

Retlaw, a Fresno, Calif.-based company, owns nine CBS-affiliated television states in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and two Fox affiliates in Georgia. Fisher, a Seattle-based company, owns two ABC-affiliated television stations and 24 radio stations. Construction permits have been issued for a 25th station in Hamilton, Mont.

The deal, struck last fall, is subject to regulatory approval. It creates a broadcast group of 13 television stations and 25 radio stations. That gives Fisher a broadcasting reach of 5 percent of U.S. households with televisions.

"We don't think that the community will see any changes at all to the negative," said Dave Olmsted, WFXG general manager and Retlaw vice president of Southeast operations. "Fisher is a fine broadcast company."

The deal is expected to close in May, he said.

In addition to WFXG, Fisher is buying a Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ga., also a Retlaw company. No personnel changes are expected at either company, Mr. Olmsted said.

The acquisition allows Fisher -- which also owns flour milling, food distribution and real estate development companies -- to diversify its media holdings.

The move will fulfill several strategic goals, Fisher Cos. President and Chief Executive Officer William W. Krippaehne Jr. said in a prepared statement. It adds more television stations with other network affiliations, CBS and Fox; and it diversifies the geographical areas where the stations are located.

Retlaw (Walter spelled backward) is named after Walt Disney. Retlaw bought WFXG in May from John Pezold, who lives in Columbus and also owned Retlaw's other Fox affiliate in Columbus.

Here are some events in WFGX's history:

July 1983:

The FCC recieves nine applications from people who want to start a new television station, Channel 54.

October 1985:

The FCC gives go-ahead for Augusta 54, a limited partnership with investors from Augusta, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., for a commercial station.

1990:

John Pezold buys the station.

May 1991:

WFXG becomes a Fox affiliate and has first broadcast.

May 1998:

Retlaw buys the station.

November 1998:

Fisher Cos. announces it will buy WFXG and 10 other television stations from Retlaw for $215 million.

Frank Witsil can be reached at (706) 823-3352.