WASHINGTON — A shareholder group led by a television game show producer said Monday that it had acquired a 9.8% stake in Media General and may seek control of the big newspaper and broadcasting company.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the group led by Barris Industries said it acquired 2.7 million Media General Class A common shares at a total cost of $108.3 million.
Barris, producer of "The Dating Game" and "The New Newlywed Game," is controlled by Burt Sugarman, who has made several investments through his Giant Group. Giant owns 25.2% of Barris.
But Barris was swiftly rebuffed by the Bryan family, which owns a controlling block of Media General shares. "We cannot conceive of any circumstances under which we . . . would accept any offer for our family's stock," D. Tennant Bryan, company chairman, and his son J. Stewart, said in a statement.
In addition to a possible bid for control, the Barris group said it might purchase additional Media General shares or seek one or more seats on the company's board through a proxy contest.
Media General stock rose sharply last week on speculation that Sugarman might have raised his stake from his original 3%. It gained $3.25 during the week to close Friday at $44.25.
Puzzled by Offer
The Richmond, Va.-based company publishes newspapers in the South and Southern California and operates TV stations and cable systems in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. Media General also has a stake in the growing newspaper empire of Texas publisher William Dean Singleton.
Last year, it earned $17.1 million on revenue of $634.6 million.
In their statement, the Bryans said they were "puzzled" by Barris' interest in acquiring control of Media General. They noted that the Class A stock elects only 30% of the board, while the rest are elected by the Class B shareholders.
"It is our intent to keep Media General intact as a strong and independent business," the Bryans said.
Noting the family's large stake, industry analyst J. Kendrick Noble of Paine Webber said Media General will be able to put up a tough anti-takeover fight. He added that the company, which is also a major newsprint supplier, was benefiting from the recent up trend in newsprint prices.
Some analysts said Sugarman could simply be looking for another profitable investment.