"We want to build a viable, strong, excellent broadcast group with as many stations as we're allowed to have," said entrepreneur Quincy Jones, Qwest chairman-CEO and one of four general partners along with TV personality Geraldo Rivera, producer Don Cornelius and NFL Hall of Famer Willie Davis.
The partners together control a 55% stake in Qwest. Tribune Co. is investing $15 million for a 45% stake and will buy $61 million in convertible debentures.
Messrs. Davis and Rivera both said last week they expect Qwest to expand its holdings considerably. Mr. Rivera said Qwest has already received commitments for financing up to $500 million in acquisitions.
"I see the possibility of [Qwest] owning 10 to 12 TV stations," Mr. Davis told Advertising Age.
Qwest is acquiring WATL, Atlanta, from Fox Broadcasting for $150 million, and WNOL in New Orleans from Quincy Jones Broadcasting and Time Warner for $17 million. Both stations are expected to become affiliates of Time Warner's WB Network.
Tribune is the primary affiliate base for-and has an option to take an equity stake in-WB, a so-called fifth network launching a prime-time slate in January.
The Qwest partners were brought together through powerful business and personal ties.
Mr. Davis said the idea was brought to him by Newton Minow, the former Federal Communications Commission chairman who serves with Mr. Davis as an outside director of Sara Lee Corp. Mr. Minow, who's also an outside director of the Tribune Co., said the concept was originally proposed by Tribune broadcasting executives, who had earlier contacted Messrs. Jones and Rivera.
Mr. Jones has a long-standing affiliation with Time Warner that includes the joint venture magazine Vibe and Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment, producer of the hit show "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Mr. Rivera, meanwhile, has a long relationship with Tribune, syndicator of his "Geraldo" talk show.
"All of us come with our own expertise and resources," Mr. Rivera said. "It was a match made in media heaven."
Tribune may be the biggest winner. It already owns TV stations in Atlanta and New Orleans, and the Qwest deal allows it to have a second presence in those markets without violating FCC rules. The FCC, which encourages minority ownership of TV stations, is likely to look more favorably on the Qwest deal because it is controlled by a minority group.