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Judge Approves Sale of Providence’s WLNE to Citadel Communications

A Superior Court judge has approved the sale of Providence ABC-affiliate WLNE to Citadel Communications, a New York-based company which owns four stations in the midwest.

Citadel Communications entered the auction hearing as the stalking horse bidder and it appears that the company won with its original bid. Citadel will reportedly pay $4 million in cash for WLNE, which declared insolvency last summer, in a deal that will total $5.8 million.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” Citadel CEO Phil Lombardo told reporters following the hearing. “We now need to formulate our plans to make the station very successful.”

Lombardo is set to tour the station today and Steve Doerr, WLNE’s current vice president and general manager, told reporters that he isn’t worried about layoffs.

“We have a very robust news operation,” Doerr said, with “a terrific staff in place.”

When Citadel emerged as the auction front-runner in February, Lombardo asserted that there was “now way” that his company would shut down the station’s news operations.

“We are very committed to news,” Lombardo told WPRI reporter Ted Nesi at the time.

Earlier this month, an attorney for ABC told the court that “the consent of ABC is required before anyone may operate the station as an ABC affiliate after March 31,” when WLNE’s current affiliation agreement is set to expire. One major factor in today’s Superior Court decision was that, according to WPRI, ABC had only agreed to enter into a new affiliation agreement with one bidder: Citadel, which already operates three ABC-affiliates.

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