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Anchor Media, financier file lawsuits

Anchor Media Corp. of St. Petersburg was dropped last Friday as outside manager for several television and radio stations controlled by Texas financier Robert M. Bass.

But Anchor, in a lawsuit filed earlier this month, claims Bass-related companies reneged on payments worth millions of dollars to Anchor and repeatedly bullied the small Florida company to forego payments and accept promises of future compensation.

"This is a business matter. I'm not mad at anybody," said Alan Henry, president and chief executive officer of Anchor Media. "But our legal action alleges fraud."

Bass spokesman Owen Blicksilver declined comment. But the Anchor charges come on the heels of a suit filed by Bass in Fort Worth that seeks a court ruling on the terms of the management contract with Anchor Media. No ruling has been issued yet.

Anchor Media was under a three-year contract until the end of 1994 to manage Bass-owned TV stations in California, Ohio and South Carolina and radio stations in Albuquerque, N.M.

According to Anchor Media's suit, filed in the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, Bass companies misled Anchor Media by saying that the TV and radio stations would be sold before the three-year contract expired; pressured Anchor Media to give up its equity stake in a Bass company that owned the broadcast properties to facilitate a refinancing plan; and promised Anchor Media management agreements and incentives that never materialized.

In late 1991, the suit contends, Anchor Media was told to make a "capital call" and invest more money in a Bass company, only to learn later that the funds were considered a loan. When Anchor Media objected, Bass officials threatened Anchor Media, the suit alleged.

Anchor Media said it reluctantly agreed to the Bass terms after it realized the "Bass Group had the financial wherewithal to severely damage (Anchor Media) in the future."

The suit charges breach of contract and seeks damages from various Bass companies, including Anchor Media Holdings and Continental Broadcasting, which now manages the Bass-owned TV and radio stations.

Henry, a former president of WTSP-Ch. 10, said he is working with a venture capital company to try and find new business for Anchor Media.

"In the long term, we will be back," he said Monday. "But I think that by the nature of the lawsuits, this will be a protracted event."

Bass, a billionaire, in 1988 acquired stock in Times Publishing Co., which owns the Times, but after a two-year legal battle agreed to sell the stock to the company.