WTVA‘s sale to Atlanta-based Heartland Media was completed today, and a new general manager also was named.
The sale – announced last fall – of WTVA officially ends more than 57 years of ownership by the Spain family, but Heartland Media president and CEO Bob Prather said viewers would likely not notice.
“It’s been a long process, but we’re glad to be here,” Prather said. “This is a great station with great leadership under Frank Spain, Jane Spain and Phil Sullivan for a long, long time and we like to buy stations with traditions of great leadership and excellence in the markets and keep them that way. I would think the viewers will have very little idea there’s new ownership in town, actually.”
Also, Sullivan, who’s been general manager of WTVA since January 2005, announced his retirement. He’ll leave March 6, but not before helping in the transition of new GM Dan Modisett, a 40-year television industry veteran. He spent his last 30 years as GM at Jackson’s WLBT, where he retired in December.
Prather said he’ll leave it to Modisett to run the station.
“I’ve never been involved with the hiring decisions in a station in my life, and I’ve been in charge of as many as 40 stations,” Prather said. “I really believe that local people need to hire people they feel good with and are right for that community. I don’t anticipate any changes other than normal attrition and turnover.”
Said Modisett, “I’ve known the Spain family and I’ve been associated with this television station for many, many years. … just great people, great television station, real iconic in this industry. When Bob and I spoke, the opportunity was just too good to pass up.”
Modisett has family in the area, with a sister outside of Columbus. His wife’s family is from Hatley and Wren.
“Really, I have a lot of affection for the area,” he said. “I’m real excited about coming in and working with the great staff here and such wonderful facility and television station.”
As for changes, Modisett said his role would be to “build on the great television station and the traditions they’ve done. They’ve done a phenomenal job serving the viewers and the advertisers, and I just want to build from that. I don’t think we’re going to come in and tear everything up. I think there will be a tweak here and tweak there, always improving.”