Cox Selling Ohio Newspapers, Dayton TV And Radio Stations

Feb 15, 2019

The Dayton media empire created by James M. Cox has been sold to an international investment company.

Apollo Global Management is acquiring WHIO-TV, news/talk WHIO-AM, country WHKO-FM, rocker WZLR-FM, the Dayton Daily News, the Butler County News-Journal and Springfield Sun, plus 13 other TV stations from Boston to Seattle.

Future Ohio governor James M. Cox from tiny Jacksonburg, Ohio, west of Middletown, bought the Dayton Evening News in 1898, and then added the Springfield Press-Republic in 1905, and the Atlanta Constitution in 1950.  He started WHIO-AM in 1935, and added Atlanta's WSB-TV in 1948, according to the Cox Media Group online history. The television, newspaper, radio and digital businesses were combined into Atlanta-based Cox Media Group in 2009.

The Atlanta Constitution-Journal announced the deal Friday. It said the Atlanta paper will continue to be owned by Cox, a privately held broadband, automotive services and media company based in Georgia.

Last summer Cox announced it would "explore strategic options" for its TV stations in Dayton, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Charlotte, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Jacksonville and Tulsa.  Including the Ohio radio and print properties "was not expected," says Talkers magazine, a radio trade publication and website.

Cox also will retain a minority interest in the Cox television division, three Ohio radio stations and the Ohio papers, the story said. The company will sell Atlanta's WSB-TV, but keep WSB-AM "and several other Atlanta radio stations and media properties in other markets," the Atlanta paper said.

“We wanted to find a company that is committed to investing in broadcast television now and in the future, and we found that in Apollo," said Alex Taylor, Cox Enterprises president and CEO, told his Atlanta paper.

Terms of the sale were not released.  The international investment company, which managed about $280 billion in assets at the end of last year, is involved with private equity, real estate and credit. It has subsidiaries in chemicals, retail, financial services, hospitality and media, the paper said.

This will be Apollo's first venture into owning local broadcast television stations. The Atlanta paper reported that Apollo is trying to buy some stations from Nexstar Media Group, and has an agreement to purchase some TV stations in the Pacific Northwest from Northwest Broadcasting.

Why the interest in the Dayton broadcast/print cluster?

Because the newspapers, radio stations and TV "share a unique business model that involve full integration of their operations," Talkers said, quoting the Atlanta paper. The Dayton paper, TV and radio stations share a newsroom, and all operate out of a building on South Main Street near the University of Dayton. Cox shut down its printing plant in Franklin in 2017 after arranging for Gannett's Indianapolis Star to print its southwestern Ohio daily newspapers.

The Atlanta paper says Apollo "plans to maintain the Cox Media management and operating structure within the new company, which has yet to be named."