The hand-over of KWHY-22 to its new owners, the Meruelo Group, is official. Today is the first day under new management. NBC Universal sold the station in January, but employees say they have been kept in the dark about all aspects of the sale for months and are uncertain about their future with the new owners.
Last week, NBCU human resource reps held a meeting with channel 22 staffers. Insiders tell me NBCU informed them they had been “terminated for reassignment” and as such, would not be receiving any type of severance packages as part of their separation from the company. Some staffers that had been with KWHY for many years say they were extremely disappointed and concerned about their future job stability under the ownership of the Meruelo Group, which has no previous television management experience, and has shown to be unprepared to take over such a huge responsibility.
The new owners were supposed to have a meeting with staff last Friday, the day after NBCU’s, but they canceled at the last minute. A source says “they simply were not ready” to provide details of how they will be paid, what their benefits are or answer any questions. “Everything is being very poorly handled by both parties. NBC is a lot to blame for what’s happening,” says the insider.
There are currently about 70 to 85 staff and full time freelance channel 22 employees. They will continue to work in the NBCU Burbank building until September 30, when they have to leave the premises. The Meruelo Group has yet to announce where they’ll be moving the station.
An employee today confirmed human resource representatives for the new owners have been at the station on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday trying to clear up any doubts about the terms of employment and benefits package. This staffer said they were told Meruelo would honor seniority previously acquired under NBCU ownership in the event of a future termination.
An NBCU spokesman would not comment on the handling of the transition, but sent this response to my inquiries, essentially relieving themselves from all responsibility:
“In January NBCU transferred legal ownership of KWHY to Bahia Honda LLC, a divestiture trust, which assumed control of the station and is overseeing its sale to The Meruelo Group. As a result queries should be directed either to Bahia Honda, or to The Meruelo Group.”
José Cancela, from Bahia Honda, said “the trust has no voice, so therefore, cannot comment.” A rep from The Meruelo Group said they would not provide a statement at this time.