Granite Broadcasting files for bankruptcy

Granite Broadcasting, owner/operator of 23 TV stations in 11 markets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week after failing to make an interest payment on its more than $400 million in debt early this month.

Granite, based in New York City, was founded in 1988 and was the first African-American-owned chain to be considered a "major" broadcast group in the United States.

The company owns or operates stations in Detroit; San Francisco; Fresno, CA; Fort Wayne, IN; Peoria, IL; Duluth, MN; Superior, WI; and Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Binghamton and Elmira, NY. The company’s channel group includes affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and My Network TV, and reaches approximately 6 percent of U.S. TV households.

Granite said it had attempted to restructure its debt and had explored a range of opportunities, including the sale of stations in San Francisco and Detroit formerly affiliated with the WB Network. The demise of the WB Network, it said, made it impossible to sell those stations.

CEO W. Don Cornwell said the company had negotiated a plan with its major creditors that would cut its corporate debt to $230 million, a reduction of more than $275 million. He said Granite hoped to complete the reorganization by the first half of next year.

Other creditors and a judge must approve the broadcaster’s reorganization plan before it can go into effect. The company estimated that it had less than 200 creditors. It plans to remain open for business during the reorganization.