Hicks Muse Subsidiaries Wire Up TV Company –

21st Century Group-which was launched last year by Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc.-and LIN Television Corp.-which was acquired by Hicks Muse in 1997 (BUYOUTS Nov. 10, 1997, p. 4)-have teamed up to launch, Banks Broadcasting, a company that will focus on acquiring and operating television stations in mid-sized and small markets throughout the U.S.

Banks Broadcasting marks 21st Century’s first activity since the firm was formed last August by Hicks Muse and former Dallas City Manager John Ware (BUYOUTS June 22, 1998, p. 5). The group currently is marketing a $175 million buyout fund. Since the fund has yet to see a first close, Ware said 21st Century is using inter-bank loans to finance its stake in the Banks Broadcasting deal, although he declined to provide additional information.

Based in Chicago, Banks Broadcasting will be headed by its namesake, Lyle Banks, a former general manager at LIN Television and station manager for an NBC affiliate station.

Ware said Banks Broadcasting will be a minority-owned and operated platform that will employ a buy-and-build strategy in the television broadcasting industry. The company will look to acquire eight to 10 stations in the next three years, he said.

Ware said he believes recent decisions made by the Federal Communications Commission encourage more ethnic and minority station ownership, which in turn will give Banks Broadcasting an edge when bidding for stations. The FCC now allows companies to own more than one television station in major markets.

Banks Broadcasting this month closed its first deal, investing in the development of KWCV-TV out of Wichita, Kan. Banks Broadcasting will pay an undisclosed amount to operate the station, a Time Warner Inc.’s WB Network-affiliate, under a local marketing agreement with Turner Communications, Ware said.

The difference between Banks Broadcasting and Providence, R.I.-based LIN Television will be the markets they target-LIN focuses on middle to large markets while Banks Broadcasting will focus on middle- to small-market companies that serve audiences of less than half a million. LIN owns or operates 12 television stations in eight markets.

Although his group has yet to see a close on its debut fund, Ware said he anticipates a first close in October, although he declined to discuss a closing amount.

21st Century focuses on acquisitions and investments in companies that are either minority owned or operated, companies that sell to minorities or have significant operations in urban areas. Ware said the fund looks at companies with sales between $20 million and $150 million, and generally will spend $20 million to $100 million per transaction.