Alabama-based Raycom media said to be purchaser of WVUE

Owner Tom Benson denies claim

WVUE-TV, owned by Tom Benson since 2008, is reportedly to be purchased by Raycom Media, of Montgomery, Ala., for $55.6 million, according to a brief item in the newsletter of the pension fund that controls the broadcasting conglomerate.

A spokesman for Benson said the report in The Advisor, the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s newsletter, is “inaccurate” and Benson has no plans of selling the Fox affiliate.

“Mr. Benson has every intention of keeping Fox 8,” said Greg Bensel, senior vice president of communications for the New Orleans Saints.

Benson, in addition to the TV station, also owns the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans.

“There’s nothing to that report,” Bensel said. “It’s inaccurate.”

The Advisor report said Raycom is “expanding with the proposed purchase” of WVUE.

Any sale would require FCC approval.

Bensel declined to say if Raycom has approached Benson about buying the station.

“We don’t comment on business transactions,” he said.

Messages left Monday with Raycom’s attorneys and David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which acquired Raycom in the mid-1990s, were not returned.

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.

The reported sale of WVUE comes amid other another major change in the local media landscape. WWL-TV, New Orleans’ CBS affiliate, and WUPL-TV, its myTV affiliate, are preparing to get a new owner.

In June, Gannett Co. announced plans to buy Belo Corp., of Dallas, for $1.5 billion.

Belo bought WWL-TV in 1994 and added WUPL to its portfolio in 2007.

That deal is expected to close by the end of the year.