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Mergers & Acquisitions

Standard General’s Fix-It Man

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Published: June 13th, 2022
Under pressure in Washington over its Tegna deal, the hedge fund taps Al Mottur, a Brownstein attorney and lobbyist who specializes in extricating clients from sticky situations.

Meet Al Mottur, the well-connected Democratic strategist and registered foreign agent that Standard General LP hired as an outside lobbyist to assist the hedge fund secure federal clearance of its $5.4 billion acquisition of Tegna Inc. (TGNA).

A shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, he’s co-chair of the firm’s technology and telecommunications practice.

At a time when mergers face considerable uncertainty in Washington, Mottur has a reputation for navigating companies through the choppiest legal and regulatory waters. His bio boasts of his role as a fixer who “solves the most complex and thorny political issues clients” confront in the nation’s capital.

“When Fortune 50 corporations or sovereign governments face a major crisis, Al is often the person they turn to. He is at his best in high-pressure, high-stakes scenarios.”

Standard General brought Mottur aboard as its purchase of Virginia-based Tegna, which owns 64 television stations in 51 U.S. markets, hits turbulence just months after its February announcement.

In April, the merger parties pulled and refiled their paperwork with the Department of Justice to give the antitrust division more time to scrutinize the transaction. The tactic is often used to stave off a second request for reams of additional confidential material that can heighten the risk of a legal challenge.

On May 20, the Federal Communications Commission granted commenters more time to file petitions to deny the tie-up. The agency acted in response to criticism leveled by advocacy groups that the transaction, which also involves private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc. (APO), would increase consolidation, reduce local news and boost retransmission fees for cable and satellite services.

There’s much more to Mottur that likely factored into Standard General’s decision to sign on the veteran Washington insider and his colleague Greta Joynes, policy director and co-chair of Brownstein’s tech and telecom practice.

Mottur is a well-connected Democratic donor. He reportedly gathered $1 million for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 and fundraised for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, and Vice President Kamala Harris when she was a California senator.

His bio touts his “strong relationships with political and career officials” at the FCC, Federal Trade Commission and other agencies, “as well as with Democratic leadership in Congress, including senior members of the House and Senate commerce committees.”

A former senior communications counsel for the Senate Commerce panel, Mottur has considerable expertise with transactions that require FCC approval. As of the first quarter, he was lobbying for 48 companies and industry associations, including a few regulated by the commission, such as AT&T Inc. (T), T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) and Sweden’s Ericsson AB (ERIC).

He also conducts Washington outreach for Apollo on issues related to its investment portfolio.

The most eyebrow-raising aspect of his experience is his networking on behalf of governments with sketchy human rights records — and overseas companies in sensitive industries from adversarial nations.

A registered foreign agent with the Department of Justice, recent international clients have included the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

He’s also served as the point man in Washington for the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co, Ltd., a Chinese state-owned chipmaker.

Just over a week after the broadcast transaction was unveiled Feb. 22, Standard General quietly registered Brownstein to lobby in Washington. It marked the first time the hedge fund ever filed paperwork for D.C. lobbyists since the investment shop was founded in 2007.

The Brownstein attorneys are tasked with assisting the New York-based hedge fund on “issues related to [the] broadcast transaction,” a public disclosure shows. The hiring occurred in early March but wasn’t publicly disclosed until late April.

Mottur did not respond to a request for comment. Standard General was not immediately available for comment.

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