By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Standard General has nominated a fifth director to Tegna Inc’s
Tegna and Standard General have been locked in an increasingly bitter proxy battle since the middle of January, when the hedge fund nominated four candidates to Tegna’s board.
On Friday, the hedge fund nominated Lawrence Wert, a former Tribune Media Company executive with years of local television broadcasting experience.
At Tribune, Wert was responsible for overseeing the strategy and day-to-day activities of the company’s owned or operated television and radio stations.
A Tegna spokesman said the board will “evaluate Mr. Wert consistent with its review process.”
Standard General, the owner of roughly 9.7% of Tegna, has urged the company, which has a market capitalization of about $3.1 billion, to consider selling itself. Hedge funds HG Vora Capital Management and Donerail are also pushing for changes at a time of consolidation in the broadcast station sector that could leave smaller players like Tegna vulnerable.
Standard General stepped up its fight amid concerns that Tegna management had rebuffed an offer from a potential buyer, but Tegna said there was no real offer to consider.
The hedge fund is adding Wert, 63, to its slate one week after Tegna expanded the 11-person board by adding Karen Grimes, an investment management executive who retired from Wellington Management two years ago.
One of Standard General’s criticisms is that Tegna’s board members have little broadcasting industry operating experience. Tegna operates 62 television stations and four radio stations in 51 markets across the country.
The hedge fund’s slate includes Standard General founding partner Soohyung Kim, as well as Deborah McDermott, Ellen McClain Haime and Colleen Brown.
As a group, the nominees would bring expertise in strategic planning, capital markets, mergers and acquisitions as well as operating experience in television broadcasting to Tegna’s board, the hedge fund has said.
Standard General said last week that Tegna had approached it to explore a settlement with a condition that Kim not get a seat. Kim rejected any settlement that does not include a board seat for himself, a source familiar with the matter said.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Dan Grebler)