General managers trade places as part of FOX, Cox TV swap

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The general managers of FOX television affiliates in San Francisco and Boston will be trading places under a surprise station swap announced Tuesday evening.

FOX Television and Cox Media Group announced on Tuesday that long-time San Francisco FOX affiliate KTVU (Channel 2), based in Oakland, would be swapped along with sister-station KICU (Channel 36) in exchange for FOX-owned stations in Boston (WFXT, Channel 25) and Memphis (WHBQ, Channel 13).

The swap will give FOX control of an affiliate and an independent station in the San Francisco area (the sixth-largest TV market in the country), while Cox will gain two FOX affiliates in Boston and Memphis, the seventh and 50th-largest television markets.

As part of the deal, KTVU and WFXT will also swap general managers, with KTVU general manager Tom Raponi leaving for Boston and WFXT general manager Gregg Kelley headed to Oakland (Kelley will reportedly lead both KTVU and KICU). While a cross-country swap of human assets is unusual, both men have had long careers at their respective broadcast companies.

Raponi is an 18-year veteran with Cox Media Group, joining KTVU sister-station KICU in 2001 and later being promoted to the role of general manager and vice president of both stations, a title he has held for the past three years. The news of his departure was first reported Tuesday evening by San Francisco media columnist Rich Lieberman.

Kelley has been general manager of WFXT since 1998. Under his watch, the station competed heavily against newsrooms owned by CBS (WBZ, Channel 4) and Hearst Television (WCVB, Channel 5). Recently, WFXT expanded their newscasts to include a longer morning program and a new evening show on the weekend. His departure was first reported by the Boston Herald.

Raponi and Kelley are expected to stay at their current stations until the station swap between FOX and Cox is finalized.