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Soo Kim sues FCC, claiming racial discrimination in failed Tegna acquisition

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A 1.5-generation Korean-American investor has sued the federal government after his attempt to buy a media group that owns more than 60 stations nationwide failed.

The lawsuit alleges that the federal government’s diversity policies and racially discriminatory behavior were key factors in the deal falling through.

According to a Washington, D.C. court filing, Standard General Fund Chairman Soo Kim filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the collapse of his $8.6 billion acquisition of the Virginia-based media group Tegna.

The complaint was filed in a Washington, D.C., court, and Kim is seeking “punitive damages to the fullest extent permitted by law,” along with attorneys’ fees, and a jury trial.

Soo Kim

“I am suing the FCC because they need to be held accountable for racially discriminating against me. The disparate and unfair treatment in my case is undeniable and unnecessarily divisive. Every person appearing before the FCC deserves to be treated equitably,” Kim told Fox News Digital on April 24.

“The FCC makes no secret about the role race plays in its decisions. Race is a factor in deciding whether to approve broadcast license transfers.” Kim’s lawyers wrote in the complaint, noting that the FCC recently reported to Congress that “advancing equity” is core to the agency’s management and policymaking processes.

In fact, Tegna, which Kim sought to acquire, was ultimately acquired by Byron Allen (Allen Media Group), who is Black.

“Objectors, organized by Mr. Allen and his allies, parroted Mr. Allen’s widely publicized views that diversity for an Asian American-owned company like Mr. Kim’s was ‘sham’ diversity,” the complaint alleges. “Kim was painted as a ‘shadowy foreign investor.'”

The Korean-American community also wrote to the FCC in support of Kim when the Tegna acquisition was in limbo.

At the time, a media union opposed Kim’s acquisition of Tegna, claiming it did not promote diversity and raised concerns about foreign influence. The FCC did not immediately approve Kim’s acquisition due to the union’s objections, instead holding a public hearing that delayed the deal. Despite Kim’s promise to appoint a woman to lead Tegna and his status as a U.S. citizen rather than a foreigner, the opposition persisted.

In response, Korean-American organizations across the country, including the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, Korean American Association of Greater New York, the Korean Federation of Los Angeles, and the Council of Korean Americans (CKA), sent a letter to the FCC in support of Kim.

The complaint stated that Kim’s planned purchase “would have created tremendous value” for Tegna shareholders by paying a $24-per-share premium for a company that had traded as low as $10 per share when bidding began in early 2020. However, the complaint alleges that the FCC killed the deal by dragging out the license transfer application for more than 300 days, causing over $200 million in losses to Standard General and Mr. Kim and nearly $2 billion in losses to Tegna shareholders.

In the complaint, Kim’s lawyers also made specific allegations that Allen, who eventually became Tegna’s owner, was a major Democratic Party donor and favored by leading Democratic politicians, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

As of now, the FCC has not commented on the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Tegna is a media giant operating 64 television stations and two radio stations in 51 locations across the country. Chairman Soo Kim is a 1.5-generation Korean-American who graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and studied public policy at Princeton University. He is also widely known as a hedge fund investor and made headlines last year when he announced plans to build Bally’s, the first casino and mega-resort in the Chicago area.

BY YEOL JANG, JUNHAN PARK    [yeol.jang@koreadaily.com]