WTVP, creditors reached tentative agreement

Terry Bibo

If WTVP Channel 47 can raise another $450,000, the public television station and its creditors will have reached a tentative deal for $5.25 million.

"We’re excited," said station board president P. Joseph O’Neill. "Everybody is weary of this. The banks are. We are. We just have to find this last amount of money."

The station has been scrambling for money since early December, after Bank of America and Commerce Bank demanded it pay off a $10.3 million loan. With penalties and interest, the balance stood at $7.2 million — and that was after WTVP used most of its cash reserves to pay down debt and extend the deal to Jan. 15.

Negotiations have been intense since then. The banks twice rejected the station’s final offer of $4 million. Late last week, WTVP President and CEO Chet Tomczyk said the gap between the two had narrowed to $500,000. Last night, he said, the board held a "very detailed and intense discussion" before it agreed to the bank’s latest figure.

The station has no later than Feb. 28 to raise the money.

"The bad news is we still don’t have the money we need," Tomczyk said.

He added that the station will return to its appeal for funds. "I think both publicly and privately, we’re going to have to do that," Tomcyzk added.

A news conference will be held at 10 a.m. today to announce more details about the tentative agreement.

"This is large. This is a very big day. This is the true nature of compromise," said O’Neill. "I think this is less than the bank wanted us to pay. I know this is more than we wanted to pay. So I think this is the very definition of compromise."

O’Neill said the banks would write off $2 million. The station had $4 million, with $1.5 million from its Save Our Station campaign, some cash, and a $2 million mortgage.

"Then we’ve had $800,000 anonymous donors sent through," O’Neill said, adding that this came from "very private" people. "This has been a very, very long hard struggle. There have been a lot of people."

The station had borrowed $10.3 million from the banks in 2001 to finance new equipment and a move from Bradley University to new quarters on the riverfront. Although the station never missed a payment, WTVP did not receive the number of pledges required in the financing agreements. In 2005, Bank of America said it would not renew the letter of credit which enabled the deal.

Contacted last night, Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton said she had not heard confirmation that a tentative agreement had been reached.

Terry Bibo can be reached at or 686-3189.