Scott D. Pierce: Channel 4’s owner might buy FOX 13, whose owner is suing Channel 2’s owner for $1 billion

(Steve Ruark | The Associated Press) This Oct. 12, 2004 file photo shows Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md. Tribune Media is ending its $3.9 billion deal with Sinclair Broadcast, and has filed a lawsuit against Sinclair for breach of contract. Sinclair had offered to buy Tribune’s 42 TV stations. The two companies had until midnight Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 to call the deal off and have been facing tough regulatory challenges.

The parent company of KUTV-Channel 2 won’t be buying FOX 13, but the parent company of KTVX-Channel 4 might.

Oh, and the parent company of FOX 13 is suing the parent company of KUTV for a billion dollars. That’s not a typo — it’s “billion” with a “b.”

Sometimes the most entertaining thing about television isn’t what’s on the air, it’s what’s going on behind the scenes.

In the wake of the collapse of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s deal to buy Tribune Media, there are reports that Nexstar Media Group is interested in acquiring Tribune itself.

You’ll recall that Sinclair (which counts Utah stations KUTV, KJZZ-Channel 14 and KMYU-Channel 12 among the nearly 200 it owns or operates) announced in May 2017 that it would buy Tribune (which counts KSTU-Channel 13 among its 42 stations) for $3.9 billion.

Sinclair management eventually managed the nearly impossible — ticking off the right-leaning, pro-business Federal Communications Commission. The Trump-appointed FCC chairman, who is reportedly under investigation for his pro-Sinclair maneuverings, sent the deal to an administrative judge — effectively killing it — because of his “serious concerns” about Sinclair’s honesty.

Tribune Media (which is in no way associated with The Salt Lake Tribune) blames Sinclair for “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission,” which killed the deal. And it’s suing. For $1 billion.

Gee, that could make things awkward if the folks at KUTV/KJZZ/KMYU and the folks at FOX 13 run into each other.

Actually … although local management and employees are affected, they’re not responsible for any of this. They’re just trying to do their jobs and ignore all this high-powered corporate stuff.

Sinclair, which is “shocked and disappointed” that Tribune is suing, may be facing more lawsuits. There are rumblings that stockholders may sue the management for making deals that benefited executive chairman David Smith and his family, not all the other stockholders.

Now come reports that Nexstar, which was beaten out by Sinclair in the bidding for Tribune, is back on the board. Locally, Nexstar (which managed KUTV from 2009 until Sinclair bought the station in 2011) owns both KTVX and KUCW-Channel 30. So if Nexstar were to buy Tribune, it would have to sell FOX 13. Or maybe KTVX. FCC regulations don’t allow it to own both stations.

And Nexstar isn’t Sinclair, so it probably won’t try to get around the rules. And get sued for $1 billion.

(There are also reports that one of more private equity firms are looking at trying to buy Nexstar. As an employee of a newspaper that was nearly destroyed by a private equity firm, let me just say: That sounds like a terrible idea.)

Ironically, back in 2001, the then-owner of FOX 13 (the Fox stations group) bought the then-owner of KTVX (United-Chris Craft) and sold KTVX to comply with FCC regulations.

There’s still a decent chance that if Nexstar buys Tribune and decides to sell FOX 13, it will sell the station back to Fox, which owned KSTU from 1990-2007.

Sinclair had a deal in place to sell KSTU and six other stations to Fox, but only if it completed the acquisition of Tribune. Which it didn’t.

Did I mention that Tribune is suing Sinclair for a billion bucks?