Capital Buzz: Will lightning strike twice for Allbrittons?

The news last week that Allbritton Communications was selling its WJLA, known as ABC7, television affiliate along with the rest of Allbritton’s family of eight broadcast stations shot like a bolt from the blue onto the Washington media scene.

But perhaps we should not be so surprised. Robert Allbritton, who inherited the company from his legendary father, Joe, who passed away last December, appears to be borrowing a page from the family’s playbook.

More from Capital Business

‘Who’s driving you?’ ‘I’m driving you’

Fight heats up between taxi association and ridesharing companies Uber and Sidecar.

Capital Buzz: A site that lets women design own dresses

Capital Buzz: A site that lets women design own dresses

Two local entrepreneurs have started Numali, which allows professional women to customize their own dresses.

For Mervis, new marketing strategy rings true

For Mervis, new marketing strategy rings true

Mervis Diamond has begun relying on repetitive Internet advertising to woo new customers.

“The sale is a recognition of, number one, that [Robert] is as smart as his old man,” said Bill Regardie, a longtime Washington businessman and former publisher of Regardie’s magazine.

Financier Joe Allbritton arrived from Texas in the early 1970s and pulled off a media deal that many in Washington still marvel at.

“It was the buy of the century,” said Andy Ockershausen, former manager of the broadcast properties for Washington Star Group, which Allbritton bought. “The deal was so good at the time, even Joe was worried that it was too good to be true.”

What happened is this: The Noyes and Kauffmann families that owned the Washington Star, WJLA (then named WMAL-TV); WMAL AM 630; WMAL FM 106.7; WLVA-TV in Lynchburg, Va.; and WCIV-TV in Charleston, S.C., sold it all to Allbritton for around $28 million.

Allbritton then unloaded several parts of the properties: He sold the WMAL radio stations to ABC Radio for $16 million — the highest price at the time for a radio station, Ockershausen said.

He later sold the Washington Star for around $20 million to Time, Ockershausen recalled.

The turnaround left Allbritton with millions in profit — and a string of television stations that became cash cows for decades, helping make Allbritton one of the richest men in the United States.

And now his son, Robert, who publishes Politico, is going to sell the television empire, which now numbers eight stations, to focus on his digital enterprises. Ockershausen estimates that WJLA alone “will bring $100 million right off the bat right now.”

Ockershausen said the late Allbritton, who was from Houston, was in the right place at the right time.

“It wasn’t something he sought out. The families came to him. I asked Joe at the time: ‘How do you know when the timing is right?’ He said, ‘I can feel it in the seat of my pants.’”

Batter up!

Kane Co. president John Kane whiffed at 10 pitches in row in the batting cage at Nationals Park following last month’s meeting of the Federal City Council in the park’s PNC Diamond Club.

Former Washington mayor Anthony Williams had more success pitching his ambitious 10-point plan to the group, which he is seeking to re-energize after a period of lethargy. First off, Williams landed two new members, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chairman Ted Leonsis and investor Russ Ramsey, who is chairman of the board of trustees at George Washington University.

Williams’s proposals included a host of public-private partnerships, including an infrastructure trust that would include investment in Union Station, an urban innovation hub to make the District more livable and even a customized app to make the city easier to navigate for tourists.

“We are trying to do things that are barely achievable that have great impact where our organizations is indispensable,” said Williams. “These are projects where we are gong to play a critical role.”

The 150 in attendance included PNC Bank’s Michael Harreld; former Republican congressman Tom Davis, a director at Deloitte & Touche; and developer Douglas Jemal of Douglas Development.

The Buzz hears:

Sambonn “Sam” Lek, iconic Washington mixologist who entertained Mayflower Renaissance Hotel customers with his potables for 36 years, returns from a year off in Cambodia and is serving his signature “Sam I Am” cocktail at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza’s 14K Restaurant & Lounge, starting May 6.

Lek, who said it was good to be back, spent the past year in Cambodia, where he has helped build 27 schools through his Sam Relief foundation, which has raised more than $500,000 over the years.

Anna Trone , wife of Total Wine & More founder Robert Trone, made the $60,000 bid that won a five-day trip to Rome at last week’s Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington Gala 2013 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.

The Washington area business establishment was out in full for the annual event, which raised a record $2.14 million and was chaired by Jean-Marie and Raul Fernandez. He is the vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

The crowd included CapitalSource founder John Delaney, now a Democratic congressman from Maryland; Bob Flanagan of Clark Construction; Christopher Tavlarides of Capital Outoor; and Donn Davis of the Revolution Fund.

Factoid of the week

7,300 That’s the number of veterans that Falls Church-based government contractor DynCorp International has hired as part of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, begun two years ago by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden,wife of the vice president.

 
Read what others are saying