DENVER–The Outdoor Channel may have dodged a bullet this week, thanks to sports magnate and Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke.
Kroenke acquired the popular cable channel, which specializes in hunting, fishing and camping programs, shortly after a producer jumped into the Colorado gun debate by announcing the channel would exit the state if the gun-control bills moving rapidly through the state legislature become law.
Kroenke’s views on the Colorado gun bills are unknown, but what is known is that the billionaire is a solid Republican. What’s also known is that Outdoor Channel Holdings was on the verge of being acquired by longtime Democratic fundraiser Leo Hindery Jr. before Kroenke stepped up to the plate.
Hindery, an economic advisor to President Obama and a top fundraiser for former Sen. John Edwards, had already seen his bid accepted but not ratified by the Outdoor Channel Holdings’ board of directors.
Then shareholder Andrew Franklin raised objections to the acquisition based on Hindery’s politics. Hindery’s company, InterMedia Outdoor Holdings, already owns the Sportsman Channel, but Franklin said he feared the Democrat’s liberal tilt would taint the Outdoor Channel.
“There’s a high level of inconsistency with Hindery’s political views,” Franklin told BuzzFeed. “How can you take revenue from the NRA and gun sponsors and contribute aggressively to [Andrew] Cuomo and [John] Edwards, who are crusading against the organizations that pay him?”
Enter Kroenke, whose company, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, submitted a bid March 1. In addition to the Denver Nuggets, which is officially owned by his son Josh, Kroenke owns the Colorado Avalanche and Denver’s Altitude Sports and Entertainment television station.
“Kroenke appeared as a bidder after controversy emerged over the earlier bid by Mr. Hindery, a major Democratic fund-raiser. Mr. Hindery had drawn scrutiny for his bid for the Outdoor Channel, known for its hunting and fishing programming,” the New York Times reported.
The Outdoor Channel’s board of directors ratified the deal at its Wednesday meeting.
“Our board of directors has unanimously determined that the proposed all-cash merger with K.S.E. offers superior value for our stockholders,” said Outdoor Channel chief executive Thomas Hornish in a statement. “We are pleased that Kroenke Sports and Entertainment has agreed to purchase Outdoor Channel.”
Still unclear is whether Kroenke will become involved with the Outdoor Channel’s battle with Colorado Democrats. Executive producer Michael Bane said in a letter to state Sen. Steve King (R-Colorado Springs) that the channel had already cancelled a filming session scheduled for late March in reaction to the gun-control bills.
“The message we will take to our viewers and listeners is that these proposed laws are so dangerous to hunters and any other person, be she a fisherman or a skier who brings a handgun into the state for self-defense, that we cannot recommend hunting, fishing or visiting Colorado,” said Bane in the letter dated March 5.
“We reach millions of people, and quite frankly, we have a credibility that the Colorado government officials can no longer match,” he said.
So far the sale to Kroenke Sports & Entertainment hasn’t muted Bane’s views. He posted a message on his website Wednesday saying, “Urge Governor Hickenlooper to veto the mag ban!”