Liberty CEO comments on merger with Raycom

(Greenville) Aug. 26, 2005 - WIS is changing hands. The Liberty Corporation, our owner since 1953, is merging with Alabama-based Raycom Media.

We realize you might have questions about why the station has been sold, and whether the sale will affect what you see.

Headquartered in Greenville's vibrant Main Street area, the Liberty Corporation offices occupy the top floors of the old Chamber of Commerce building. But when the sale of Liberty television stations, including WIS, is finalized, most staff there will be gone.

Chairman and CEO Hayne Hipp says the time is right for Liberty to end 75 years in the broadcasting business, "I've been a part of WIS all my life and so, there is emotional involvement. But again, a very full price, Raycom is a good company. They're committed to the community."

The sale to Raycom of the 15 Liberty television stations marks a dramatic change for the company. But what does it mean for our viewers? The company's top officer says in some respects, that's almost impossible to predict.

WIS is home to "Oprah" and other popular syndicated shows. The future of those, and WIS news and public affairs programming is now Raycom's call. Hipp says, "I don't anticipate any changes. Again, that's a Raycom decision. But Raycom purchased these stations because they like what they do. They like the on-air personalities. They like the programming."

Hipp says Raycom's reputation should reassure WIS viewers, "Committed to the community, part of the community, understands the need to serve the community. The local news that you're so well known for, the advertisers, and that is their culture too."

WIS becomes one of 52 stations ultimately owned by the retirement system of Alabama, which oversees Raycom.

Will out-of-state ownership change a station operated for more than half a century by South Carolinians?

Hipp says, "The Raycom stations that are dominant like WIS and your sister station in Montgomery, WSFA, which has an equally dominant position, Raycom would be very familiar with that. And they understand and appreciate what a dominant station does, especially one that has such deep roots in the community."

As one of the state's top companies disappears, Hipp says he will keep his office on Main, and look for new ways to help South Carolina's economy move ahead.

Liberty's stock ended the day up more than $10, at 47 and a half. Analysts say if the merger goes as scheduled, shareholders could likely be paid for their stock within weeks of when the deal is completed.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted 6:25pm by Chantelle Janelle