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ADELPHIA REJECTS BID FOR EMPIRE SPORTS UNIT
$17 MILLION CASH OFFER FROM BUFFALO NATIVE SPURNED

The Adelphia Communications Corp. has said "no thanks" to a $17 million cash offer for its Empire Sports Network subsidiary.

Buffalo native Joshua Pollack, who heads a New York City-based media company, was rebuffed by Adelphia, according to sources involved in the potential deal. Pollack made the offer through his NXT Communications, with financial backing from Boston-based ABRY Partners, LLC.

Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, who has met with Pollack about his interest in Empire and his plans to expand the sports and entertainment programming business in Buffalo, said he's deeply disappointed by Adelphia's rejection of the offer.

"This was a legitimate, bona fide offer and I'm deeply disappointed that Adelphia would not enter into good faith negotiations," Giambra said. "Josh not only wants to preserve the 50 jobs and programming at Empire Sports, he wants to build it into a larger, more diverse media company."

Erica Stull, a spokeswoman for Evergreen, Colo.-based Adelphia, declined to comment on any offer from Pollack's group or its disposition. She also declined to discuss Adelphia's price tag for Empire.

According to documents obtained by The Buffalo News, two Adelphia executives traveled to Buffalo this month to meet with Pollack and Brik Brooks, of ABRY Partners. The documents, which provide some details of Pollack's financial assumptions regarding Empire, indicate he expects the stand-alone programming operation will generate annual revenues of at least $500,000.

In addition to the $17 million offer for Empire's assets, NXT also would pay the Buffalo Sabres $8.5 million for broadcast rights to the team's NHL games. Pollack also proposed to enter into a five-year agreement with Adelphia to carry Empire's programming.

Empire, which is located in West Seneca, is on the market along with all of Adelphia's assets as part of the company's fiscal reorganization. Earlier this month, William Schleyer, chairman and chief executive of the nation's fifth-largest cable TV operator, said he's fielded "significant interest" in Adelphia's operations.

While he did not identify any bidders, this fall Comcast Corp. and Time Warner, the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. cable companies, respectively, confirmed they were investigating a joint bid for Adelphia.

Locally, Giambra and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello have expressed concern over what impact a sale will have on Adelphia's 1,700 area employees, with particular concern that Empire could be put out of business as a result of any acquisition.

"The guys who are interested in the cable operations are not likely to want to keep Empire alive. Josh Pollack has a specific interest and plan for Empire and I plan to lobby Adelphia executives on his behalf," Giambra said.

Masiello has referred to Pollack as "a high-energy, big visionary" whose interest in Empire is very positive for Buffalo.

Empire, which has faced an uncertain future since Adelphia's assets were put on the market, has experienced additional pressures in recent months.

The National Hockey League's lockout has left it without its marquee programming, Sabres' games. Also this fall, Time Warner dropped Empire's remaining sports programming from its digital cable tier in the Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton markets, further reducing its fiscal viability.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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