Cable Co. Attacks Tribune's 'Hedge Fund Owners'

Aug 21 2012 | 12:22pm ET

Angelo Gordon & Co. and Oaktree Capital Management don't own the Tribune Co. just yet, but the hedge funds are already being blamed for its problems by a New York cable television company.

Cablevision Systems, which has customers in New Jersey and Connecticut as well as New York, pulled several Tribune-owned stations from customers last week, including WPIX, New York's CW Television Network affiliate, which carries some New York Mets games. In a statement, Cablevision blasted Tribune and its creditors, naming the hedge funds and accusing them of trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from Cablevision customers.

"The bankrupt Tribune Company and the hedge funds and banks that own it, including Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and others are trying to solve Tribune's financial problems on the backs of Cablevision customers," the company said. "Tribune and their hedge fund owners are demanding tens of millions in new fees for WPIX and other stations they own. They should stop their anti-consumer demands and work productively to reach an agreement."

Tribune dismissed Cablevision's claims, saying that the company yanked the stations "while in the middle of negotiations" and that it would have extended its current agreement with Cablevision while negotiations were ongoing. Tribune added that the blackout is "designed to mislead their subscribers who rely on Tribune's local stations."

Cablevision's fight with Tribune is certainly not its first with a  content provider. The company has a long history of battles, including blackouts and refusals to carry, with the MSG Network (which it now owns), the New York Yankees' YES Network, the NFL Network (resolved last week), ESPN, the Food Network, HGTV, ABC and Fox, and as a content provider has battled with other carriers.

Angelo Gordon and Oaktree, along with JPMorgan Chase, lead the group of creditors seeking to take control of Tribune, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times in addition to owning 23 television stations. A federal bankruptcy judge approved their plan last month, but the creditors cannot take control until they win Federal Communications Commission approval for the transfer of Tribune's licenses.

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