Sarasota's 24-hour TV news station must pay back a $400,000 debt.
SARASOTA -- Sarasota's 24-hour TV news station, SNN6, faces an asset sell-off in late February, as a result of a judgment in the 12th Judicial Court in Sarasota.
As a result of a lawsuit filed by Gravitas Leasing LLC against the owner of SNN, LDB Media LLC, 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Lee Haworth has awarded Gravitas the right to sell off the TV station's equipment to cover a debt of more than $400,000.
Gravitas Leasing, which is controlled by retired Illinois attorney and Palm Tower owner Randall Bono; Alton, Ill.-based CPA Michael Fitzgerald and Dunlap; and Sarasota attorney Johnson Savary Jr., says in its civil case against LDB Media that the TV station owner stopped paying its note in July.
However, Doug Barker, a partner in LDB Media, says the sell-off is not going to happen.
“This is an internal deal with one of our partners that he did for some reasons we don't necessarily want to get into,” Barker said, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss more of the situation. “This is going to have no effect on us. We're just going to keep moving right along with no problems.”
This isn't the first time the station has faced seemingly dire straights. In early 2009, SNN's former parent, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, closed the station and laid off its 32-person staff. However, in February 2009, LDB Media, a company led by Linda DesMarais and her husband, Barker, bought SNN6 from the Herald-Tribune and brought it back on the air.
The civil suit says that when LDB Media purchased SNN, it took on a $400,000 loan from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Division of NYT Management Services Inc. Toward the end of 2009 and into the first part of 2010, LDB Media took out two other loans, totaling $150,000, from Randall A. Bono LLC.
In April 2010, Gravitas Leasing renewed and consolidated the three loans. The suit says the new loan was for $400,000, with an 11% interest rate.
According to the court docket, Gravitas Leasing filed suit in November, seeking payment. Without an official reply from LDB Media, a judgment calling for the property sale was issued Dec. 23. The default is seeking a total of $441,837.54 and additional interest from LDB Media.
Among the assets listed as collateral on the loan are TV-studio equipment, cars and vans, servers, computers, software, cameras and a traffic system.
If the sale goes forward, Gravitas Leasing will get credit from the proceeds toward the purchase of the station's equipment, almost certainly making Gravitas the eventual owner of the station.
This lawsuit follows a similar default case filed against LDB Media LLC by Robert and Theresa Olson in August 2010.
That suit resulted in SNN's owners agreeing to pay the Olsons $50,000 in principal on a loan, plus $5,000 and attorney's fees of $8,016.95.