Although Lowell Register complied with a judge’s order last week and handed over checks he’d been holding, it’s still unclear whether WPGA-TV will be taken off the air temporarily in a cost-saving move.
Assets of Register Communications and its subsidiaries, Radio Peach and Radio Perry, were placed under the management a court-appointed receiver — a New York attorney tasked with handling the companies’ affairs — in early 2015 after the company reportedly failed to pay about $7.5 million in loans, property taxes and payroll taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Register, who contends that a federal bankruptcy court judge reinstated him and his wife to Register Communications’ board last month, admitted during a Sept. 15 hearing in Bibb County Superior Court that he’d taken checks intended for the company from mail delivered to its Forsyth Street office.
Testimony during the hearing included a Register Communications bookkeeper playing audio of a conversation she had with Register. In it, he asked her about the company’s financial dealings and told her to turn over the checking account and other records.
“I’m going to make sure that not another penny goes into a bank account until such time as we get this cleared up,” he was recorded as saying. “I’ll intercept every check.”
Claims that Register interfered with his companies while they’re in receivership, as well as with Creek Media LLC, a company operating Macon radio station The Creek 100.9, spurred the hearing.
Creek Media’s agreement with the receiver to purchase Radio Perry and Radio Peach, and other property, still is pending a judge’s approval. In the meantime, they’re operating The Creek under a local marketing agreement.
As part of an order prohibiting Register from interfering with Creek Media and the companies while they’re in receivership, Superior Court Judge Ed Ennis instructed Register to deliver the missing checks to the receiver’s attorney, Ivy Cadle, by Monday or face a $100 fee for each day they were late.
Reached Tuesday, Cadle said he had received the checks, but the receiver still is evaluating whether they’ll be enough to keep WPGA on the air.
“We are hopeful that they are enough to continue the operation,” he said. “Lowell Register has caused a lot of problems. We’re trying to see where they’ll be when the dust settles.”
During last week’s hearing, Cadle said, there wasn’t enough money coming in “to keep the lights on” at the TV station and the receiver had requested permission from the Federal Communications Commission to temporarily stop broadcasts as a cost-cutting move.
Employees also had been warned of possible temporary layoffs.
The layoffs didn’t happen, Cadle said Tuesday.
During last week’s hearing, Register’s lawyer, Thomas James, said any checks Register had didn’t amount to much.
Reached Tuesday, James said Register believes his companies were “wrongfully taken from him” and damaged while in the receiver’s care.
Register maintains that the receivership is invalid because Green Bull Georgia Partners LLC, a company that purchased the promissory notes for which Register allegedly was in default, both filed for the receivership and consented to it on behalf of Register Communications using a power of attorney. The power of attorney removed Register and his wife as members of the board, according to a legal brief his attorney has filed supporting a motion seeking to end the receivership.
He contends that the bankruptcy court judge has ruled Register Communications wasn’t in default and Green Bull Georgia Partners acted wrongfully, according to the brief, which also opposes the confirmation of Creek Media LLC’s purchase of Radio Peach and Radio Perry.
In court last week, Register argued that the judge’s order reinstating him to the company’s board gave him the right to take control of the companies.
The TV and radio stations haven’t made as much money as when Register — who has been in the broadcasting business for decades — was in control, James said.
The amount that Creek Media LLC paid was below market value, James said. Documents filed in the court record show that Creek Media paid $790,000 to purchase the radio stations and other property.
A hearing hasn’t been scheduled for Ennis to consider Register’s contention that the receivership should end.
If the judge rules in his favor, Register hopes to resurrect his companies, James said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.