Television stations in Missoula, Kalispell, Butte and Bozeman were purchased Wednesday by BlueStone Television, a limited liability corporation based in Kansas.
The sale of the Montana properties, which includes KECI in Missoula, is part of BlueStone's acquisition of Lamco Communications Inc., which owns and operates 12 television stations with multiple network affiliations in eight markets nationwide.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal, which is subject to approval of the Federal Communications Commission, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2004.
BlueStone was formed in July, 2002, by Providence Equity Partners and Sandy DiPasquale, a veteran broadcast executive .
"We are pleased to find owners who have an in-depth understanding of the broadcast industry," said Andy Stabler, chairman of the Lamco board of directors.
Lamco, a Pennsylvania company which includes stations in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, California and Texas and serves 1.2 million households, purchased the Montana stations from Eagle Communications, a subsidiary of Precht Communications Inc., in late 1997.
"The Lamco Communication television stations are high-quality and well run," said DiPasquale, BlueStone president and chief executive officer. "We look forward to working with the talented general managers and employees of these stations to continue their tradition of excellence."
In order to comply with federal regulations, Newport Broadcasting Inc, which is owned separately by DiPasquale, will acquire Lamco station WCTI in North Carolina prior to BlueStone's acquisition of other Lamco assets.
Keith Sommer, Montana general manager and a Lamco Communications vice-president, said he does not anticipate any major changes in his operations.
"When Sandy came through, I just had a great feeling from the moment I met him and I think it will be a good thing for the company," he said. "I'm thrilled. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing and hopefully take it to another level.
"Sandy is a great guy who brings a lot of experience and excellent leadership to our team," added Sommer. "He understands the importance of local television and the uniqueness of individual markets. This is a good thing for us and our viewers."
Montana employees have known Lamco Communications was for sale. Dealings even came to the point of Larry Wilson, a Bigfork man, announcing his purchase of the company last year. Now, with the transaction made, there's a sense of relief for everybody, said Sommer.
"I'm so thrilled to be done with the changing aspect and actually have owners and be moving forward," he said. "There's definitely some peace of mind here. There's no doubt about that."
Reporter Mick Holien can be reached at 523-5262 or at email@example.com