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KOCE Group Makes Top Bid

The foundation devoted to keeping the O.C. public station affiliated with PBS has tripled its bid. Owners meet today to decide on a buyer.

October 15, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

The KOCE-TV Foundation has more than tripled its bid to acquire and preserve Orange County's public television station, dramatically taking the eleventh-hour lead when the station's owners meet today to decide the fate of Channel 50.

The foundation's $32-million bid has won the endorsement of two trustees screening the offers for the Coast Community College District, which wants to sell the station to buoy district revenue and reduce costs.

The foundation, which has served as the fund-raising organization for KOCE-TV, offered $8 million in cash and the balance over time, the district disclosed Tuesday. A spokesman for the foundation said it knew it had to increase its bid substantially to be competitive, but declined to identify the source of the new funding.

Its bid is "the highest responsible offer," said trustees George Brown and Jerry Patterson. They were asked by the full board to evaluate the bids and make recommendations.

The foundation previously offered $10 million, less than half the bid of the other four initial suitors, even though the local group had won widespread community support for its intentions to keep the station affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System. None of the other bidders had offered to do that.

But the trustees' decision, expected tonight, will not be without complications.

Daystar Television Network, a Christian broadcaster, offered $40 million cash, but its bid arrived a day after the Oct. 8 deadline, said Elliot B. Evers, managing director of Media Venture Partners, which was hired by the district to broker the sale.

Brown and Patterson recommended rejecting the proposal and holding Daystar to its $25.1-million offer.

Almavision Hispanic Network, a Spanish-language Christian broadcaster, offered $35 million cash, but district officials have not been satisfied with the financial guarantees.

Pappas Telecasting Cos., a Visalia firm, also offered $25.1 million. Because the company did not submit an offer during the first round of bidding, the bid could be rejected.

All offers will be submitted to the five-member board, which will choose which bidder enters final negotiations.

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