Tribune calls off $3.9B buyout by Sinclair

The Chicago Tribune Tower, center, on North Michigan Avenue. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Tribune withdrew Thursday from its $3.9 billion buyout by Sinclair and it's filing a lawsuit against it, citing breach of contract.

Tribune Media Co. is on the hook for a $135 million breakup fee, according to the agreement reached last year.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. had been attempting to buy the Chicago company's 42 TV stations and had agreed to get rid of stations in some markets to gain regulatory approval.

In July the bid by Sinclair, a media outlet that had the vocal support of President Donald Trump, appeared to be cruising toward approval by U.S. regulators.

Last month, however, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that he had "serious concerns" about the deal, saying that Sinclair might still be able to operate the stations "in practice, even if not in name."

Tribune, based in Chicago, claims Sinclair used "unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations" with the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission over regulatory requirements and that it refused to sell the stations it needed to.

Sinclair, one of the nation's largest owners of TV stations, has become a significant outlet for conservative perspectives.

The company was admonished by media watchdogs in April after dozens of Sinclair news anchors read an identical script expressing concern about "one-sided news stories plaguing the country." At the time, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the company. Sinclair defended the script as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.

With the Tribune acquisition, it could expand into dozens of markets.

The Maryland company did not immediately respond early Thursday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
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