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Executives Fine-Tune KOCE Bid

Business leaders who hope to save O.C.'s PBS affiliate sweeten their offer, the lowest of five.

October 09, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

A group of Orange County business leaders who hope to preserve KOCE-TV as a PBS affiliate announced Wednesday that it has substantially increased its offer for the Coast Community College District's station.

At a news conference in Irvine the day final bids were due, officials of the KOCE-TV Foundation would not say how much they added to their original $10-million offer.

That bid, the only one that would keep it a public television station, included $1 million down, with the rest to be paid over five years. Competing bidders, including four religious broadcasters, have each offered about $25 million.

Joel Slutzky, a member of the foundation board, said the new offer had "sweetened the upfront cash" and increased the total. Foundation officials said terms of the bidding process prohibit them from being specific in public statements.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 11, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 109 words Type of Material: Correction
Television station sale -- An article in the California section of Thursday's Orange County Edition about the pending sale of public television station KOCE-TV reported an incorrect interpretation of remarks by a spokesman for one of the bidders, Trinity Broadcasting Network. The story reported that John Casoria said the network in principle supports the nonprofit KOCE Foundation bid for the station, but would not want any competing religious broadcasters to buy the station. What Casoria said was that TBN hopes the foundation will win the station, but that TBN wants to acquire it if the station's owner, the Coast Community College District, chooses to sell to the highest bidder.

The foundation effort has attracted broad support from community leaders. But many at the college district, including faculty members, say trustees should sell to the highest bidder to help offset state budget cuts. Trustees are expected to make a decision Oct. 15.

Foundation officials also said at the news conference that the district would incur costs of $12.27 million -- including the return of subscriber pledges, repayment of funds from the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and employee severance -- if it chooses a competing bidder.

District spokeswoman Erin Cohen said attorneys have told trustees that that is a questionable legal opinion.

Dwight Decker, chairman and chief executive of Conexant Systems Inc. of Newport Beach and a foundation board member, said the new offer was competitive with other bids even when those costs were not included.

Slutzky, chairman of Odetics, an Anaheim communications and technology company, said the foundation hoped the new offer would "make it a no-brainer for the trustees."

The other bidders may also have increased their bids, which were due Wednesday.

John Casoria, a spokesman for Trinity Broadcasting Network of Costa Mesa, said earlier this week that TBN was discussing whether to increase its bid after hearing that another company had increased its offer.

Casoria has said TBN supports the KOCE Foundation bid in principle, but would not want any of the competing religious broadcasters to buy the station.

Other bidders are the Daystar Television Network of Dallas, LeSEA Corp. of Indiana and Almavision Hispanic Network.

"My worst nightmare is if one of the religious broadcasters triples its bid," Slutzky said.

The increase in the foundation's bid is the latest twist in the sale of Orange County's PBS station.

Most recently, the foundation's partner in the bidding -- KCET-TV Channel 28, the PBS station in Los Angeles -- dropped out, saying it was unable to come up with a plan to combine its operations with those of KOCE by the bidding deadline.

Foundation members had been relying on the support of Orange County's rich and powerful to persuade the community college trustees to award them the station. They continued the tactic at Wednesday's news conference.

Appearing were former major league baseball commissioner and Olympic chief Peter Ueberroth; Henry Samueli, chairman of Broadcom Corp.; David Pyott, chief executive of Allergan Inc., and David Tu, president of Kingston Technology Co. This was the first time several of them had been involved with KOCE, Slutzky said.

Foundation officials declined to say who had offered the additional funds. But they said they have received an outpouring of support from throughout the county.

"All of the sudden we realized there was more muscle at the table than we started out with," Slutzky said.

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