Archive for October, 2010

Cablevision and Fox reach programming deal

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cablevision Systems Corp and News Corp have a reached a programing deal which sees the return of the Fox local stations to more than three million New York area homes after a 15-day blackout.

The Fox stations and some of its sister cable networks, NatGeo Wild and Fox Desportes, disappeared off the systems of Cablevision after the cable operator was unable to reach a deal with Fox over a price rise in programing fees.

With either side refusing to back down, Cablevision customers ended up missing some of their favorite shows and sports including the ongoing World Series baseball championship.

The companies said signals were returned to Cablevision ahead of the third game of the series on Saturday.

Terms of the new deal were not disclosed. In a series of PR and advertising campaigns, Cablevision had claimed News Corp had been demanding to more than double its fee to $150 million from $70 million.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke)

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Tribune creditors file three reorganization plans

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Finance News

WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) – Three different groups of creditors to Tribune Co filed rival proposals for ending the newspaper publisher's near two-year stay in bankruptcy.

The three plans, which were filed Friday with Delaware's Bankruptcy Court, will compete for creditor support against the company's proposed plan.

Like the company's plan, the proposals allow for Tribune's businesses, such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, to exit bankruptcy while creditors fight over how to apportion blame for its bankruptcy.

Tribune, which also owns 23 television stations, filed for bankruptcy just a year after real estate developer Sam Zell bought the company with billions of dollars in debt.

Tribune has proposed a reorganization plan based on a settlement among lenders JPMorgan Chase & Co and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

Under their plan those three would end up controlling the company.

The Tribune plan tries to avoid many potential lawsuits by putting a value on legal claims and settling with bondholders, whose roughly $2 billion in investments were essentially wiped out by the bankruptcy.

A hedge fund holding a large portion of those bonds, Aurelius Capital Management, clearly has no intention of accepting Tribune's settlement offer and it filed one of the competing plans.

The other plans were filed a group holding senior loan claims and Marathon Asset Management LP and King Street Capital LP, which hold bridge loan claims.

The plans mainly differ from the company's by foregoing settlements and pursuing legal claims against lenders, particularly the banks that loaned the money for the second part of Zell's two-step leveraged buyout.

In July, a court-appointed examiner found the second part of Zell's buyout might be determined to be fraudulent.

LAWSUIT FILED

In conjunction with their bankruptcy plan, the group of senior lenders also filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Citicorp and Bank of America. They said in the lawsuit the banks arranged $3.7 billion in Tribune loans in 2007 they knew the company could never repay.

"The Lead Banks knew that this financing was barred by the terms of the Credit Agreement and it was tainted with fraud and other misconduct," the lawsuit, which was filed late on Friday, said.

Representatives for the JPMorgan, Bank of America and Merill Lynch were not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit. Citicorp declined to comment.

The lawsuit, which claimed that the banks had no exposure to the loans and collected more than $120 million in fees, was filed in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The plaintiffs, including Alden Global Distressed Opportunities Fund and Arrowgrass Distressed Opportunities Fund, claim that the loans arranged by the defendants prevented Tribune from paying back earlier debt obligations.

Tribune's attempts to exit Chapter 11 have recently been overshadowed by a management upheaval.

The company last week replaced Chief Executive Randy Michaels, who became a target of critics following a New York Times story that quoted numerous employees who were upset at pervasive sexual banter and profanity among top managers.

The case is In Re Tribune Co, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.

(Reporting by Tom Hals and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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5 Maine gov race rivals discuss attack ads, taxes

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Finance News

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AUGUSTA, Maine – An eighth-grader's submitted question about negative political ads triggered the sharpest exchange among the five candidates for governor on Saturday night as they held their final debate before Election Day.

Republican candidate Paul LePage said more than $2 million had been spent by opponents attacking him, although he quipped, "One good thing about it — I'm a household name."

Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell, the state Senate president, said her record in the Legislature has been badly misrepresented by LePage and independent Eliot Cutler. She said she was "tired of what's being done to me."

"For six months or so, I've been labeled as a big taxer, and it's simply not true," Mitchell said. "I have cut taxes."

Cutler, who's been a target of opponents' attack ads and mailings that make references to his work as a lobbyist and as a lawyer involved with Chinese-American business interests, said political campaigns shouldn't be opportunities "to destroy someone's character, to distort someone's reputation, to besmirch someone's life's work."

Waving a mailing from LePage supporters that labeled him a lobbyist for China, he said, "That's a lie."

LePage, the Waterville mayor, has consistently led in polls, followed by Mitchell and Cutler. Trailing far behind in the race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Baldacci are independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott. The election is Tuesday.

The issue of welfare reform also highlighted differences among the candidates during the televised debate, which was sponsored by WGME-TV and Maine Today Media.

LePage, who wants to create a multitiered system in which recipients get smaller benefits as they earn more, referred to his impoverished youth.

"I was born in it, and I worked my way out of it," LePage said. "It's time we bring common sense to Augusta."

Mitchell said suggestions of widespread gaming of the welfare system have been overblown and she's reluctant to cut off people who really need help.

"We've created a climate in this discussion where people are afraid to ask for help," she said.

Scott said the issue should be developing jobs and not "scapegoating people," and Moody said, "We've got to give people a lifeline, not a lifestyle."

There were some areas of agreement. While all five candidates agreed they want to lower taxes, they said it can't be done immediately because of the precarious state of the economy and its impact on the state budget.

"I don't think it's realistic right now," Moody said.

Cutler sarcastically congratulated LePage for "postponing" tax cuts he's promised, but LePage responded that he never said he'd cut them immediately.

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