ALBANY — After originating as an Albany newspaper company nearly 120 years, Gray Television Inc. is closing its Albany administrative offices, consolidating them with the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.
According to Gray Television Senior Vice President Kevin Latek, the decision to close the Albany offices comes as a result of the company’s continued expansion and the need to centralize and streamline its operations.
“We’ve grown exponentially,” Latek said. “We had too many people working in too many offices. It made more sense to have everyone working in one location.”
Gray TV had maintained accounting and human resources operations on the third floor of The Albany Herald building at 126 N. Washington St. in downtown Albany. At the time of the announcement Gray had roughly two dozen employees at the Albany location, all of which were offered an opportunity to relocate to the company’s Atlanta office.
Gray, which currently employs roughly 3,000 people, owns and operates television stations in 45 markets reaching about 8.3 percent of U.S. TV households. With broadcasting 150 program streams, it has 22 channels affiliated with NBC, 16 channels affiliated with ABC, 13 channels affiliated with FOX, and 30 channels affiliated with CBS — the largest number of CBS affiliates owned by one company, including the CBS Network itself.
The company originated in a different type of media. Gray Television traces its history back to 1897 with the founding of Herald Publishing Company, publisher of The Albany Herald, which started in 1891.
The Herald Publishing Company was purchased in 1947 by James H. Gray Sr., who controlled the company until his death in 1986.
In 1954, the company made its first foray into the television business when it constructed WALB-TV to complement its radio station, WALB-AM (now WALG) in Albany. Gray later acquired WJDM-TV in Panama City, Fla., and changed the call letters to WJHG-TV, to reflect his initials.
In 1967, the Herald Publishing Company’s name was changed to Gray Communications Systems Inc. and launched as a public stock offering. That same year the company added KTVE-TV, which served the Monroe, La./Dorado, Ark. markets.
When Gray died in September of 1986, he still owned just more than 50 percent of the company’s shares, which kept ownership of the company with the Gray family until 1991 when the company’s board of directors purchased roughly 25 percent of the family’s shares from Gray’s heirs, leaving the Gray estate with a 25.8 percent ownership interest.
In 1993, that ownership interested was sold to Atlanta’s Bull Run Corp., which was owned primarily by J. Mack Robinson and run by Robert Prather. Concurrently with that investment, Robinson, Prather and Robinson’s son-in-law, Hilton Howell Jr., joined Gray’s Board of Directors, a move which signified a change in the company’s strategic direction.
That change led to the company seeking to obtain additional properties, which it did in 1994 when the company acquired the assets of WKYT-TV in Lexington, Ky., WYMT-TV in Hazard, Ky., and The Rockdale Citizen daily newspaper in Conyers. That was followed by the acquisition of the Gwinnett Post-Tribune (now the Gwinnett Daily Post) in 1995.
That same year the Gray Communications Systems Inc., which had previously been listed on the NASDAQ exchange, became a listed stock on the New York Stock Exchange.
During the remainder of the 1990s, the company continued to expand its newspaper and television holdings, while also venturing into the satellite broadcasting and paging businesses.
By the turn of the century the company had also expanded its operations outside of the Southeast by purchasing TV in Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Texas, as well as The Goshen News newspaper in Goshen, Ind.
Despite that expansion in the late ’90s, the company did shrink its television presence in the Albany area when it sold the assets of WALB-TV to Cosmos Broadcasting Corp. after it acquired WCTV-TV of Tallahassee/Thomasville.
In July 2002, the company underwent another significant change when it changed its name from Gray Communications Systems Inc. to Gray Television Inc., which held its non-television assets, including The Albany Herald, through subsidiary Gray Publishing LLC.
Gray Television continued to expand its holding significantly from 2002 to 2005, acquiring nearly 20 televisions, including WSWG-TV, a CBS-affiliated station in Moultrie, which also marked the company’s return to the Albany market.
The company ultimately left the publishing business in 2005 when it contributed all of the membership interests in Gray Publishing LLC, which owned and operated Gray Publishing and GrayLink Wireless, to Triple Crown Media Inc., which was immediately spun-off to the public.
As a result of that move, the company ceased to own any publishing or wireless assets, including the company’s first media holding, The Albany Herald. The only media outlet currently owned by Gray Television that was a part of the television stations and newspapers that had been owned by the Gray family is the one bearing the former owner’s initials, WJHG.
Today The Albany Herald is owned by Southern Community Newspapers Inc. (SCNI), which also owns and operates six additional publications — the Clayton News Daily, the Gwinnett Daily Post, the Henry Daily Herald, the Jackson Progress-Argus, the Newton Citizen and the Rockdale Citizen.