Wometco Enterprises

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Wometco Enterprises (also known simply as Wometco) is a company headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida; a suburb of Miami. It was a large media company but today it is known only as the owner of the Miami Seaquarium.

History[edit]

Wometco was founded in 1925 as the Wolfson-Meyer Theater Company, a movie theatre chain in based in Miami. The company's co-founders were brothers-in-law Mitchell Wolfson (1900–1983) and Sidney Meyer.[1] The first movie theater opened by the firm was the Capitol Theater in downtown Miami, built in 1926. Over the years the company built up the largest chain of movie theaters in South Florida, and adopted the portmanteau name of Wometco sometime in the 1950s.

In 1949 Wometco moved into broadcasting with the founding of WTVJ in Miami, Florida's first television station. The station signed on in March 1949 from studios inside the Capitol Theatre, which was renovated for television. Wometco purchased WLOS-WKJV -WWNC- WKSF AM/FM/TV in Asheville, North Carolina in 1958, and KVOS-TV in Bellingham, Washington was added in 1961. In 1976 Wometco bought WTVG (now WFUT-TV) in Newark, New Jersey, and in 1978 acquired WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1977 Wometco launched a nationwide, over-the-air subscription television service called Wometco Home Theater, using WTVG as its flagship station.

Wometco expanded its non-entertainment holdings in 1955, with the opening of the Miami Seaquarium. It bought the Blue Circle hamburger chain, based in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1966, but sold it in 1974.

Transition and sale[edit]

Wometco co-founder Mitchell Wolfson died in January 1983, survived by two children: son Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., and daughter Frances Wolfson Cary. (Mitchell Wolfson was widowed when wife Frances Meyer Wolfson died in 1980; eldest son Louis Wolfson, II died a year earlier.) The elder Wolfson left no succession plans in his will, and as a result Wometco quickly unraveled, making it a ripe takeover target. Investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts took over Wometco in 1984 in a deal worth $1 billion, the largest corporate buyout ever to that date.[2] Assets included 45 movie theaters, three television stations, 47 cable TV systems, the Miami Seaquarium, the Citrus Tower, the vending machine division, and the soft drink division, one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the nation[3] In 1994 Cobb Theatres bought out the Wometco movie theatre chain. The Cobb chain would later merge into Regal Entertainment Group.

Wometco today still owns the Seaquarium and a franchise of Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts stores in Miami, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.[4]

Former Wometco-owned stations[edit]

Television stations[edit]

Television.svg This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.

Stations are arranged alphabetically by state and city of license.

City of license / Market Station Channel TV (RF) Years Owned Current Ownership Status
Jacksonville, Florida WFGA-TV/WTLV1 12 (12) 1957–1975 NBC affiliate owned by Gannett Company
Miami - Fort Lauderdale WTVJ ** 4 (now 6 (31)) 1949–1984 NBC owned-and-operated (O&O)
Grand Rapids - Kalamazoo - Battle Creek, MI WZZM-TV 13 (13) 1978–1984 ABC affiliate owned by Gannett Company
Newark, N.J. - New York City WTVG/WWHT 68 (30) 1976–1984 UniMás affiliate, WFUT-TV, owned by Univision Communications
Smithtown, New York WSNL-TV
(satellite of WFUT)
67 (23) 1980–1984 UniMás affiliate, WFTY-TV, owned by Univision Communications
Asheville - Greenville - Spartanburg WLOS-TV2 13 (13) 1958–1984 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Bellingham, WA - Vancouver, B.C.
(Bellingham is nominally in the Seattle-Tacoma market)
KVOS-TV 12 (35) 1961–1984 Me-TV affiliate owned by OTA Broadcasting, LLC

Radio stations[edit]

AM Station FM Station
Market Station/
Frequency
Years owned Current Status
Asheville, North Carolina WLOS-13801
(now WKJV)
1958–1969 owned by International Baptist Outreach Missions
WLOS-FM-99.91
(now WKSF)
1958–1984 owned by Clear Channel Communications

Footnotes:
**: WTVJ was the only station which was built and signed-on by Wometco;
1: Wometco held a controlling (47 percent) share of Florida-Georgia Television Co., founding owner of WFGA-TV/WTLV, at the station's launch in 1957. Wometco's share was reduced to a minority (11 percent) stake in 1971. Wometco and its other partners were bought out by Harte-Hanks Communications in 1975;
2: Wometco operated the Asheville stations under a subsidiary, Wometco-Skyway Broadcasting, after purchasing majority control of WLOS-AM-FM-TV in 1958.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Parks 1981. p. 211
  2. ^ Wayne, Leslie. Wometco Agrees To Buyout New York Times, September 22, 1983.
  3. ^ Birger, Larry. New Wometco to Sell Its Theaters The Miami Herald, March 12, 1984.
  4. ^ Wometco Enterprises Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Bibliography
  • Parks, Arva Moore. Miami: The Magic City. Tulsa, OK: Continental Heritage Press, 1981. ISBN 0-932986-17-X.