Fisher answers critics with $10 cash dividend
Seattle-based broadcaster Fisher Communications, responding to demands from activist investors like Mario Gabelli, will spend $89 million to pay a $10-per-share special dividend.
Seattle Times business reporter
Seattle-based broadcaster Fisher Communications, which has been under pressure from big, activist investors for years to return value to its shareholders, said Monday it will pay them $10 cash per share and start paying regular quarterly dividends for the first time in a decade.
The special dividend will cost the company roughly $89 million -- nearly all the cash and Treasury securities on Fisher's books.
The biggest beneficiary will be superinvestor Mario Gabelli, whose various entities together own nearly 29 percent of Fisher's stock. Gabelli had been pushing Fisher management to restructure the company so as to enable a big shareholder payment -- and pointedly held out the prospect of an outright sale of the business as an alternative.
During Fisher's second-quarter conference call, for instance, Gabelli said management had received an all-cash offer for the company of $40 a share, and asked CEO Colleen Brown why she hadn't informed shareholders. Brown replied that she wouldn't discuss "rumors, speculation, insinuation of any type."
Fisher also said Monday it had lined up a $30 million line of credit.
Fisher in January finished retiring its old, high-interest senior debt, which it accomplished largely by selling assets, including last year's sale of its Fisher Plaza headquarters for $160 million.
After paying a quarterly dividend since 1971, Fisher suspended it in 2002 following the dot-com bust. The new dividend, expected to be 15 cents per share, will start being paid in the fourth quarter.
The special dividend will be paid on Oct. 19 to shareholders of record as of Sept. 28.
The news sent Fisher shares to their highest level since November 2008. The stock closed at $36.99, up $3.17, or 9.4 percent, on the day.
Fisher owns 20 television stations, including KOMO-TV and KUNS-TV in Seattle. It also owns KOMO-AM, KVI-AM and KPLZ-FM in Seattle, and manages KOMO-FM.
Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or email@example.com