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Media General adds 110 papers to roster

Media General Inc., owner of the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8, dramatically increased its holdings Monday by buying Park Acquisitions for $710-million in cash.

The purchase adds 28 daily newspapers and 82 weekly newspapers to Media General's growing empire, as well as 10 television stations.

"This acquisition makes compelling strategic sense and represents a major step forward in our mission to be a leading provider of news, information and entertainment in the Southeast," said J. Stewart Bryan III, Media General chairman and chief executive officer.

Once the purchase is completed, Media General will have spent $1-billion on acquisitions in the past year.

Park Acquisitions, a private company owned by Gary Knapp of Lexington, Ky., and Donald Tomlin of Columbia, S.C., purchased Park Communications in October 1994 for $711.4-million.

At the time, Park Communications also owned 22 radio stations. Most of them were sold this year for $233-million, said Tom Thomas, a Park Communications spokesman.

Media General earned $53.2-million, or $2.01 a share, on revenue of $707.8-million in 1995.

Park Communications earned $27.3-million in 1994, or $1.27 per share, on revenue of $184.9-million. No figures were available for 1995 because the company is now privately held.

Media General Class A shares fell $1.62{ to $33.75 a share Monday.

"In general, Park properties were run to maximize short-term profits. Media General also concentrates on growth and revenue," said Joseph L. Antrim, an analyst with Davenport & Co. in Richmond. "I think it's a great strategic fit over the long term, and it will benefit company shareholders."

Bryan said 22.1 percent of homes with televisions in the Southeast will be able to watch a Media General station after the purchase is completed, up from the 9.2 percent reached by the company's three TV stations now.

Of the 10 new stations, five are CBS affiliates, three are ABC affiliates, and two are NBC affiliates. The market sizes range from 51st in Birmingham, Ala., to 177th in Alexandria, La.

The other TV stations are in Richmond and Roanoke, Va.; Lexington, Ky.; Chattanooga and Johnson City, Tenn.; Greenville, N.C.; Utica, N.Y.; and Montgomery, Ala.

Media General said it will trade the Richmond television station for one in another location because Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit a company from owning a television station and newspaper in the same city. Media General owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The station in Utica, N.Y., will be traded for a station in the Southeast, Media General said. Media General's ownership of the Tribune and WFLA in Tampa is allowed because it predates the FCC regulation.

Media General currently owns nine daily newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, and 40 percent of the Denver Post. It will acquire the Danville Register & Bee this summer. Among its other holdings are the Winston-Salem Journal, the News & Advance of Lynchburg and the Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

The Southeastern daily newspapers being acquired are in Manassas and Waynesboro, Va.; Clinton, Concord, Eden, Lumberton, Marion, Morganton, Rockingham and Statesville, N.C.; Warner Robins, Ga.; and Somerset, Ky.

Other dailies in the deal are in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Media General spokesman Robert W. Pendergast said the company hasn't determined what it will do with those dailies. "We could keep them. Certainly, it would be very attractive to trade them for newspapers in the Southeast."

Completion of the purchase of Park Acquisitions is expected by Jan. 1, pending regulatory approval.