Lombardo, Cole Say Goodbye To ‘SNN’ With Nexstar Deal


In March 2009, Philip J. Lombardo stepped in to help an ailing 24/7 news channel serving Florida’s Suncoast region. Lombardo owned a home in Sarasota, and contacted RBR+TVBR to see how he could connect with the station’s then-General Manager and her husband. That phone call led to an investment in SNN, with a management-led buyout deal working out after a funding snag nearly derailed its sale by The New York Times Co., which owned the Sarasota Herald-Tribune at the time.

Now, Lombardo has signed off on an agreement to sell SNN. The buyer is the No. 1 owner of broadcast TV stations in the U.S.

The Lombardo-owned Citadel Communications, overseen on a day-to-day basis by President/COO Ray Cole, has agreed to sell WSNN-LD — its lone remaining asset — to Nexstar Media Group for $1 million.

It closes a chapter in broadcast television history that has seen Cole serve in his role since 1992, rising from other roles at Citadel Communications (not to be confused with the former Citadel Broadcasting) since 1985. Former TV stations owned by Citadel are today held by groups including Nexstar.

Now, WSNN is poised to become a sibling to NBC affiliate WFLA-8, the Tampa-St. Petersburg station also serving Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch. Nexstar acquired that station through its merger with Media General. And, it will be a sibling to MyNetwork TV affiliate WTTA-TV, “Great 38.” That station operates through WFLA via a channel-sharing agreement.

In a press release distributed ahead of the asset purchase agreement’s May 25 filing with the FCC for regulatory approval, Nexstar said the acquisition will enable WFLA-TV and WTTA-TV “to significantly expand” their local news presence in the Tampa DMA to include Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties.”

Lombardo said he is “extremely proud of WSNN’s growth since our company acquired a majority ownership stake in 2014,” following that minority equity investment five years earlier. “The station transformed itself from a cable program service with limited local reach to a full-service local television station with broad distribution across the Suncoast. We value the reputation we’ve earned for providing viewers with the most comprehensive local news coverage, dedicated weather coverage especially in hurricane season, and delivering the area’s only local sports coverage. We look forward to having Nexstar, with whom we have a long relationship, build upon WSNN’s record of news and community service in ways that will serve our viewers, advertisers and employees well.”

There is no broker or finder associated with the transaction, which sees Liz Spainhour of Brooks Pierce serve as the legal counsel representing Citadel in this transaction.