By Ken Stone
So says Robert Herring Sr., founder and CEO of the pro-Trump network.
Herring reacted Tuesday to a Vanity Fair article Monday by Fox News authority Gabriel Sherman, who cited unnamed sources in reporting that an investor group “aligned with … Don Jr. and the Dallas-based Hicks family has acquired a major stake in One America News Network.”
Herring told Times of San Diego: “So far we know nothing about Trump Junior buying our Company. We have had several people who want to buy, including some locals, but we are not anxious to sell.”
Herring is the father of OANN President Charles Herring, who Sherman said was asking $300 million for the channel, “a price the Trump group felt was too high (one source said the final price was around $200 million).”
The network — often mentioned by the president when he appears unhappy with conservative-leaning Fox News — doesn’t have the reach of Fox, however.
A year ago, OANN boasted being the No. 4-rated service in cable news — behind Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN.
“OAN outperformed CNN Headline News, Fox Business Channel, CNBC, BBC World News, Fusion, Bloomberg and others, per the same March 2019 data” by Comscore, said a press release.
On Wednesday, a source familiar with parent Herring Networks operations said the Herrings have for years brought would-be investors – businessmen or politicians – into OAN’s Bay Ho headquarters.
“Republican politicians have often been able to come into the newsroom and even talk with staff,” said the source, who didn’t want to be identified. “The Herrings have been quite proud to show off their operation, but for what purpose? Bragging rights, of course. But if the Herrings are any bit of the businessmen they claim to be, those regular tours and talks are definitely an effort to infuse cash into the network or orchestrate some other deal.”
The source said that, until recently, the network had little ad revenue coming in.
“The network can’t survive on the Herring family assets forever,” the source told Times of San Diego, “so naturally the network would need investors. If Herring says he’s not anxious to sell, it’s probably because he hasn’t gotten a bid he likes yet.”
The source speculated that Robert Herring still wants some control over the operations, especially in terms of content.
“Then again, it’s hard to sell a national news channel noted for production gaffes, misinformation, promoting conspiracy theories and questionable staffing choices,” the source said. “Any potential buyer would have to do a lot of work to repair the reputation and change the image of the network, especially if the goal was to reach a wider audience.”
Last September, The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Robert Herring as saying OAN was available in 35 million households, but added: “That’s less than a third of the roughly 119 million TV households in the U.S., as estimated by ratings giant Nielsen.”
“In San Diego, OAN is broadcast on AT&T’s U-verse and DirecTV. Major carriers in other markets include CenturyLink, Verizon’s Fios TV and Frontier Communications,” the U-T noted. “OAN is also available via subscription on Roku, Facebook and KlowdTV.”
Sherman — author of the Roger Ailes biography “The Loudest Voice in the Room” — said in his article: “Trump’s view that Fox is insufficiently loyal has motivated him to look for a more reliable media partner. On April 26, he tweeted: ‘The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!’”
He ended the article by noting that Trump over the weekend tweeted that AT&T was expanding OANN’s distribution: “I hate to be promoting AT&T, but @OANN is Great News, not Fake News. Everybody should be carrying them!”
Sherman also quoted an unnamed source as saying: “Trump’s big thing was always to own a network and be a multibillionaire. If Trump loses, he can be on OANN all the time. And before he leaves office, he has months to pump it up.”
The Trump family’s interest in buying OAN was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in January.
“The investment firm Hicks Equity Partners is looking to acquire the channel and is pitching other wealthy GOP donors to arrange a bid of roughly $250 million for the channel’s parent company … The firm is owned by the family of Thomas Hicks Jr., co-chairman of the Republican National Committee and a close friend of Donald Trump Jr.,” said the Journal.
At the time, Charles Herring responded that the network has become “a reliable news source for a national audience,” adding that the company has seen interest from potential suitors from time to time.
“With the 2020 political season in full swing, expressed interest is on the rise,” he wrote via email. “Yet our family didn’t build our operations to sell it.”
Updated at 2:01 p.m. May 6, 2020
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