Group says report that Raycom is in talks to buy Fox 8 is a ‘mistake’

Associated Press photo by MANUEL BALCE CENETA -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson arrives Tuesday for the NFL owners fall meeting in Washington.
Associated Press photo by MANUEL BALCE CENETA -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson arrives Tuesday for the NFL owners fall meeting in Washington.

A recent report that Raycom Media is in negotiations to purchase WVUE-TV in New Orleans was a “mistake,” according to the head of the organization that published the news.

The statement came a day after a spokesman for station owner Tom Benson said there are no plans to sell the station, billed as “Fox 8.”

David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, said Tuesday that the brief item in the group’s October newsletter, stating Raycom Media was in talks to buy the station for $55.6 million, was incorrect. Raycom is a subsidiary of the RSA.

“We apologize for the mistake,” he wrote.

Bronner declined to answer any additional questions, including how the mistake was made, whether Raycom had approached Benson about buying the station or whether there had been past discussions about purchasing the Fox affiliate.

The newsletter, called The Advisor, reported Raycom was “expanding with the proposed purchase” of WVUE.

Greg Bensel, senior vice president of communications for the New Orleans Saints, owned by Benson, said Monday the report was “inaccurate” and Benson, who also owns the city’s NBA franchise, has no plans to sell WVUE.

“Mr. Benson has every intention of keeping Fox 8,” Bensel said.

He declined to say if Raycom, of Montgomery, Ala., had approached Benson about purchasing the station.

In an email sent to station employees Monday afternoon, WVUE General Manager Joe Cook said reports of a sale should be treated with skepticism.

“I don’t have reason to believe the rumors you are hearing/reading today are actually true,” he wrote, noting the report from The Advisor, and calling it “a copy of what is said to be a legitimate publication.”

“It’s not a secret that any broadcasting company out there would want to own such a prize of a station,” Cook added.

Benson bought WVUE from Emmis Communications Corp. of Indianapolis in 2008 for $41 million.

The station is owned by Benson’s Louisiana Media Co., making it the only locally owned network affiliate in New Orleans.

Raycom owns or provides services for 52 TV stations across the country. In Louisiana, it owns WAFB-TV and WBXH-TV, Baton Rouge’s CBS and myTV affiliates respectively, plus KPLC-TV, Lake Charles’ NBC affiliate, and KSLA-TV, Shreveport’s CBS affiliate.