Chris-Craft Sells 50% UPN Stake To Viacom

By Christian
March 21, 2000 - 12:01 AM

This morning, Viacom and Chris-Craft Industries announced the latter company would be selling its 50% stake in UPN to Viacom for the price of $5 million. Following Viacom's triggering of a special clause in the UPN contract, Chris-Craft was forced to either buy Viacom's stake or sell its own stake to Viacom. After a New York court ruled on Thursday that Viacom was in its rights to use this clause, Chris-Craft was forced to make a decision today.

Over the weekend, the media were speculating about what exactly Chris-Craft would be deciding. It was rumoured that Chris-Craft was planning to take over UPN and run it together with USA Networks as a new partner, but yesterday Variety reported talks between the two companies had broken down. Left alone, Chris-Craft had virtually no choice but to sell the network.

Still, even though Viacom has now bought UPN, the network's future is still not certain. Due to Viacom's merger with CBS, the company will soon own two national TV networks, a situation still prohibited by the FCC. Though experts expect the FCC to lift this rule for the Viacom/CBS merger, this is by no means certain yet, and Viacom has already stated it would be willing to lose UPN if this helped the merger go through.

For 'Voyager', though, this is good news. Whatever the FCC decides, UPN will at least remain under the control of Viacom for the near future, meaning that the network will still be owned by Viacom when a decision about Voyager's seventh season will have to be made. Of course, what the situation will be with Series V still remains to be seen.

You can read the official press release sent out by Viacom below:


New York, New York March 20, 2000 - Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B) and BHC Communications, Inc., (Amex: BHC) a subsidiary of Chris-Craft Industries, Inc. today jointly announced that BHC will sell its half-interest in UPN to Viacom for $5 million in cash. The transaction is expected to close promptly.

On March 16, a New York court upheld Viacom's use of the buy-sell in a lawsuit brought by BHC which sought to enjoin the Viacom-CBS merger. BHC's decision to buy or sell was due today. As a result of the sale, Viacom will become the sole owner of UPN and BHC's eight UPN stations remain primary affiliates of the network in their major market cities.

Sumner M. Redstone, Chairman and CEO of Viacom, said, "We are pleased that UPN will now be a wholly owned part of the Viacom family and that working with Dean Valentine and his excellent UPN management team, we can continue to build on the tremendous momentum they have created. We also look forward to continuing to create value for all of our affiliates, notably including the Chris-Craft Stations Group."

William D. Siegel, President and Chief Operating Officer of BHC, said, "While we were disappointed with the court's decision, we believe that UPN and our shareholders will now best be served by ending any further uncertainty through our sale to Viacom. We want to see UPN continue its recent ratings surge in the upcoming fall season, and look forward to continuing our support of the network as its anchor affiliate group. We want to thank all of the employees of UPN, both past and present, for their hard work and dedication, and we wish them and Viacom continued success."

Dean Valentine, President and Chief Executive Officer of UPN, said, "UPN is having an extraordinary year and becoming part of the Viacom family will only enhance our prospects. We anticipate new opportunities both on the business and creative fronts as we work even closer with our sister companies. We want to thank Chris-Craft for their support and for their continuing role as an important UPN affiliate."

Viacom Inc. is one of the world's largest entertainment companies and a leading force in nearly every segment of the international media marketplace. The operations of Viacom include Blockbuster, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Spelling Television, Paramount Parks, Showtime Networks, Simon & Schuster, 19 television stations, and theatrical exhibition operations. Viacom also owns half-interests in the Comedy Central cable channel, the UPN television network, and UCI, a theatrical exhibition chain. National Amusements, Inc., a closely held corporation which operates approximately 1,300 motion picture screens in the U.S., the U.K. and South America, is the parent company of Viacom.

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