Originally created 11/05/02

Buyer looks at WFXG assets



Augusta's Fox affiliate is still up for sale, but its owner said it is now negotiating with a different buyer.

The proposed sale that Seattle-based Fisher Communications Inc. announced in August was never completed.

"That deal just didn't work out," Fisher spokesman Christopher G. Wheeler said Monday.

The company has entered into another nonbinding letter of intent to sell WFXG-TV (Channel 54), it reported last week in its third-quarter earnings statement.

As with the previous deal, Fisher would not disclose the identity of the proposed buyer.

Fisher also is selling WXTX-TV, a Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ga. The sale of both stations would require Federal Communications Commission approval.

The prospective buyer is currently investigating the station's assets and liabilities, a process known as due diligence.

"A sale will either close, or somebody will back out," Mr. Wheeler said, adding that he expects to know whether a sale will take place within a month.

Fisher has owned WFXG since 1999, and at one time toyed with the idea of creating a local news team.

The company purchased the station for $1.2 million from Fresno, Calif.-based Retlaw, which acquired the station the previous year from Augusta Family Broadcasting, a local company owned by Jack Pezold.

The WFXG property, at 3933 Washington Road, has an assessed valued of $1.09 million.

Fisher, which suffers from falling revenue and weak profitability, said the tentative deals are an effort to raise cash to cover debt and pay for construction of Fisher Plaza, the company's high-tech complex near Seattle Center.

Fisher's third-quarter loss would have been even larger if not for one-time gains on derivatives and a real estate sale.

The company lost $918,000, or 11 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3.7 million, or 43 cents a share, a year ago.

Fisher said that without the one-time gains and the costs stemming from its milling operations that have been sold, it would have lost $4.8 million in the quarter.

The sale of its two Georgia television stations will result in a $17 million loss, the company said.

Fisher owns 11 network-affiliated television stations and 28 radio stations, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. The Fisher family owns 40 percent of the company; Microsoft's Bill Gates owns 5 percent.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or dcline@augustachronicle.com.