Canadian media company Bell Globemedia to acquire rival CHUM

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Canadian media company CHUM Limited has announced that it has agreed to be acquired by larger rival Bell Globemedia Inc. for $1.7 billion CAD cash, bringing the CTV and Citytv broadcast-television networks and such specialty channels as MuchMusic, TSN and Bravo! under the same corporate umbrella.

Shareholders will receive $52.50 per common share of CHUM and $47.25 per Class B (non-voting) share. The estate of the late Allan Waters, who died late last year, has agreed to tender all its shares to the bid, netting the Waters family nearly $450 million.

In a joint statement, CHUM's chairman, Jim Waters, said, "In Bell Globemedia's offer, we not only found value for shareholders, but confidence that we would be placing CHUM in the hands of an owner with the financial resources and track record to continue to grow and build on our collective legacy."

Globemedia CEO Ivan Fecan added, "We are able to make this premium offer because Bell Globemedia is clearly the most logical buyer of CHUM. There is a unique strategic fit to our operations that can make the united company a stronger national champion in broadcasting. We intend to maintain and build the valuable CHUM brands and develop more opportunities for Canadian programming." He added that CTV and Citytv will remain separate networks and "will maintain separate and independent news divisions in order to ensure a continued diversity and competition in news coverage."

In a separate release, CHUM announced it would be cutting 281 jobs at its stations across the country, particularly at its Citytv stations in western Canada. Effectively immediately, evening newscasts at CKVU-TV Vancouver, CKEM-TV Edmonton, CKAL-TV Calgary and CHMI-TV in the Winnipeg market are being eliminated, with plans for a new newsmagazine tentatively titled In Your City at the three Prairie stations, and more resources being put into each station's local version of Breakfast Television. Less drastic changes are planned for its A-Channel stations in smaller markets. The company said these changes will result "in a significant reduction in staffing and operating costs."

The companies said that they expect to sell CHUM's A-Channel stations, as well as Alberta educational broadcaster Access, to third parties, despite CTV's historical ties to several of them. Many of the A-Channel stations were originally acquired by CHUM from Baton Broadcasting, the predecessor of Bell Globemedia, in 1997, as part of a trade that sent CHUM's ATV and ASN assets in Atlantic Canada to Baton and allowed Baton to acquire the CTV network itself.

Despite CHUM's ownership of MuchMusic and CTV's recent launch of MTV Canada, the companies claim their specialty channels are "complementary" and did not indicate any sale plans.

Bell Globemedia is currently majority-owned by BCE Inc. but is awaiting regulatory approval for a restructuring involving the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Torstar Corp., and the Thomson family. In the interim, the takeover offer will be made by a new company owned by the proposed new shareholder structure.

Sources

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