Mike McKinnon Sr. (left) and Mike McKinnon Jr. leave courthouse at lunch break.
KUSI owners Mike McKinnon Sr. (left) and Mike McKinnon Jr. leave courthouse during February court hearing. Photo by Ken Stone

The Texas-based company buying San Diego’s KUSI-TV signaled to staff Thursday some will lose jobs but their news operation will stay separate from Fox5 San Diego (KSWB).

Sandra Maas trial judgment against KUSI-TV.
Sandra Maas trial judgment against KUSI-TV. (PDF)

According to someone in communication with a KUSI staffer, who attended a meeting on the merger, the KUSI brand will be preserved with its own news team “though there will obviously be sharing of assets and some crossovers on air.”

On Monday, Nexstar Media Group shook up the local media landscape with its announcement it bought the independent station from the McKinnon family for $35 million.

Nexstar owns Fox5 San Diego and is a majority owner of The CW Network. (CBS8, or KFMB-TV, is a CW Network affiliate.) KUSI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Nexstar hasn’t responded to queries sent Tuesday.

“The half of the building which housed San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine that shut down years ago will be converted to the Fox5 studio and offices,” a former KUSI staffer told Times of San Diego. “The newscasts will continue head-to-head, but that’s not to say that some tweaks to the schedule won’t happen.”

A representative of Nexstar said some KUSI jobs will be eliminated after expected FCC approval, but there is no talk of buyouts yet, said the source who didn’t want to be named.

Station founder Mike McKinnon Sr. and his son, station president Mike McKinnon Jr., were present at the meeting, but were said not to have contributed to the discussion at its Kearny Mesa offices.

“The fact that [KUSI employees] were told the newscasts will continue to run as two operations was well-received,” said the source. “The KUSI side of the building and set will be updated as well.”

KUSI’s Steve Cohen, 70-plus news director of the right-leaning station, is said to have no intention of retiring, Times of San Diego learned separately.

On a private Facebook group with more than 400 members, KUSI alumni commented on the sale, which one called a “cut-rate price.”

One said: “Bringing a [CW] network affiliation to the mix is the money maker for Nexstar. An independent can’t command retrans/OTT $$ like a network affiliated group station.”

Recent stock prices for Nexstar Media Group.
Recent stock prices for Nexstar Media Group. Image via Yahoo.com

Both sides are winners, added the commenter. “The challenge will be avoiding brand dilution for one or both. Best wishes to the good folks working at both shops.”

Another was surprised by the $35 million price, calling KUSI “a money machine for the McKinnons! At least it was👀 It either highlights how TV stations have lost thier value, considerably, or there is some backroom manuevering for some stock.”

One longtime former reporter, John Soderman, reacted on the record.

“I’m surprised they did not choose to keep it in the family as two of Mike Jr.’s kids work at the station,” he said. “As much as KUSI hurt me to the core in laying me off after 21 years on the air, the truth is that it’s probably the best independent TV station in the country — not beholden to any network or corporation. Now that will all change.”

Nexstar, said to be the nation’s largest local broadcasting group, has 200 owned or partner stations in 116 U.S. markets. Publicly traded as NXST, its share price was down nearly 1% Thursday, closing at 157.18.

That’s well below its trending amount near $200 only a few months ago.

Meanwhile, lawyers for former KUSI anchor Sandra Maas are looking to collect a jury verdict that McKinnon Broadcasting Co. pay Maas $1.75 million in her pay-equity and whistleblower suit.

Josh Gruenberg this week said the KUSI sale won’t affect the Maas payout, which has yet to be appealed. Other costs and attorneys fees will be separate.

“We expect to be paid in full,” Gruenberg said.