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The Weather Channel sold to NBC and equity firms

An investor group led by NBC Universal has agreed to pay about $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel, the “New York Times” reported. The deal came after Time Warner, the only other remaining bidder, dropped out.

Although the parties did not disclose details of the purchase price, the agreement with NBC and the private equity firms Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group came after three weeks of negotiations.

The price reportedly paid is less than the $5 billion that The Weather Channel’s parent, Landmark Communications, sought when it put the basic cable channel and related properties like up for sale in January.

More than half of the price will be paid in equity, to be divided roughly equally among the three buyers, the “Times” reported.

The Weather Channel, now 26 years old, is the leading brand of weather information on television —reaching 96 million households on basic cable, according to Landmark. The Web site attracts nearly 40 million unique users a month. It also encompasses Weather Services International, a forecasting service with more than 5500 clients.

According to the newspaper, the Weather Channel will be run as an independent operation, rather than being merged into NBC’s own meteorological offering, NBC Weather Plus. NBC will provide management services. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.