Wometco Enterprises (also known simply as Wometco) is an American 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.
Wometco was founded in 1925 as the Wolfson-Meyer Theater Company, a movie theatre chain based in Miami. The company's co-founders were brothers-in-law Mitchell Wolfson (1900–1983) and Sidney Meyer. 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-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
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. 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 In 1994 Cobb Theatres bought out the Wometco movie theatre chain. The Cobb chain would later merge into Regal Entertainment Group.
Former Wometco-owned stations
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 Tegna|
|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 Tegna|
|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||MeTV affiliate owned by OTA Broadcasting, LLC|
|AM Station||FM Station|
|Years owned||Current Status|
|Asheville, North Carolina||WLOS-13801
|1958–1969||owned by International Baptist Outreach Missions|
|1958–1984||owned by Clear Channel Communications|
**: 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.
- Parks, Arva Moore. Miami: The Magic City. Tulsa, OK: Continental Heritage Press, 1981. ISBN 0-932986-17-X.