Business

Court appoints new management for Register Communications in Macon

A Bibb County Superior Court judge has appointed a receiver -- someone to “take possession, control and manage” all the operations -- for Register Communications Inc., which owns TV and radio stations in Middle Georgia.

A receiver was appointed because Register Communications has failed to pay about $7.5 million owed in loans, property taxes and payroll taxes owed the Internal Revenue Service, according to court documents.

Macon-based Register Communications’ operations include WPGA-TV, Bounce-TV, Me-TV and several radio stations.

“Our company has been going through a lot of problems over the last five years,” said Lowell Register, who has been president and CEO of the family owned business that’s been in operation since the 1960s. “There is no question that we have been trying to find somebody that would buy us out and pay us and put us out of our misery, so to speak.”

But after not finding a buyer, the operations were pulled off the market, he said.

Register Communications consented to the court appointing a receiver, so no hearing was necessary.

While Register said “it’s not a fun situation to be in,” the court’s action seemed to be the best course for the company. The company now managing the business, Green Bull Georgia Partners LLC, is making an investment in the business and aims to help improve revenue so the company can pay off its debt.

While Register Communications has had issues with debt for several years, the loans and money owed involved in the recent court filing goes back to 2001.

As of Feb. 18, according to court documents, the unpaid loans and money owned by the company include:

The principal remaining on a $700,000 loan from BB&T in 2001 for $475,000, plus $197,000 in unpaid interest and fees.

A loan from Synovus Bank in 2009 for $3.04 million, plus $2.9 million in unpaid interest and fees.

A loan in 2011 to Southernaire Music Co., based in Tucker, for $250,000, plus $131,000 in unpaid interest and fees. Southernaire also assumed the loans from Synovus and BB&T.

Professional fees and unpaid property taxes of $307,000, some of which was paid by Southernaire.

IRS payroll taxes of $250,000.

Register’s primary lender, Southernaire, “has said basically because of the past that we’ve had, they would like to figure out a way to accelerate the balances that we owe them,” Register said.

Southernaire representatives approached an investment firm, Candlewood Partners, which has offices in New York and Ohio, to take over the loans. Green Bull Georgia Partners LLC, a single purpose entity, was set up to take over the loans and manage the affairs of Register Communications through the court-appointed receiver, said Glenn Pollack, managing director of Candlewood and president and a manager of Green Bull Georgia Partners LLC.

The court appointed Gaurav Malhotra as the receiver, but the court documents don’t describe him any further. Pollack said Malhotra is an attorney in New York.

“It isn’t a typical receivership,” Pollack said. “He has a reporting role, and that’s his job,”

Pollack agreed that an investment is being made in Register Communications.

“We have already added two additional local people to work on marketing and advertising,” he said. “We have invested in third-party resources to help with an enhancement of all of the Register-owned stations in Macon. ... We are encouraging the stations and working with various local groups to try and enhance Register’s company presence and make it more a part of the community. And we are also working on programming to make it more appealing to the Macon viewers.”

Green Bull also hired a consultant to help the stations with additional opportunities and programming, he said.

But Green Bull, through its receiver, has the authority to “take possession, control and management of all operations” of Register and its subsidiaries. Also, it is authorized to hire brokers to lease or sell the company’s property.

Register said the company has about 15 employees and that all of them remain in place.

Several things caused him to get behind on paying his debt, including legal fees, the recession and the FCC-required change from using analog equipment to digital, Register said.

The company needs an infusion of capital to make it profitable, “so we can advertise on Bounce TV and Me TV and all these networks we have,” Register said. “We don’t have the equipment to put in there to do that. Without the equipment, you can’t sell advertising on it. That’s been the problem we’ve had.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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