Liberman Broadcasting

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Estrella Media (formerly known as Liberman Broadcasting, Inc. from 1987 to 2019 and LBI Media, Inc. from October 2019 until February 2020) is an American media company based in Burbank, California that is owned by private equity firm HPS Investment Partners, LLC. Estrella Media primarily caters to the Spanish-speaking Hispanic community, owns television and radio stations in several of the top Hispanic markets, and is the parent company of the Estrella TV network.

José Liberman and his son Lenard founded the company in 1987, as Liberman Broadcasting, Inc. Between them, they had more than 55 years of operating experience in the broadcasting industry. The father/son pair co-founded radio and television clusters in Los Angeles and Houston, and in the late 1990s to early 2000s, expanded their assets to include broadcast properties in Dallas and San Diego. Although their television stations were considered part of the Liberman Television Network, they were still classified as independent stations and by 2006, the company had adopted a consistent branding for its three television stations under the brand “Estrella TV” (or “Star TV”), mirroring the television system model in the Canadian television industry. Liberman expanded the Estrella TV format to other markets where it acquired television stations, featuring much of the same programs as those aired by the Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston outlets (some of which aired in different timeslots than they did on KRCA, KMPX, and KZJL).

In 1999, Liberman formed a production division within its LBI Media unit to produce original programming content that would be distributed to the stations, focusing on a mix of various series, sketch comedy, scripted drama, and music programs, talk shows, and game shows. One of its earliest programs, the reality game show Gana la Verde (“Win the Green”), caused controversy after several immigrant advocacy groups (including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Central American Resource Center, the Latina Lawyers Bar Association and the Mexican American Bar Association) and California U.S. House Reps. Xavier Becerra, Hilda Solis, and Linda Sánchez complained that the format – which debuted in July 2004 and featured illegal immigrants competing in extreme Fear Factor-style competitions for the opportunity to win one year of legal assistance from an immigration attorney to help them obtain a green card – put its participants in danger of deportation by immigration authorities aware of the show.

On November 21, 2018, Liberman Broadcasting filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company—which claimed assets worth between $100 million and $500 million and liabilities worth between $500 million and $1 billion—sought to reduce its overall debt by more than $350 million and secured $38 million in debtor-in-possession financing. On April 17, 2019, Liberman obtained the approval of its reorganization plan from the Delaware bankruptcy court, with the expectation that it would be able to clear its balance sheet within the following several months.

As a result, Estrella TV suspended production of the talk show Noches con Platanito and canceled its two-morning news programs Primera Edición and Buenos Dias Familia. (The latter two shows—following a four-month run of telenovelas and an encore of the previous weeknight’s edition of flagship newscast Cierre de Edicion in the timeslot—would later be replaced by a new morning news program, En la Mañana, on October 21.) On October 15, 2019, Liberman Broadcasting completed its reorganization plan, turning over ownership of the company—which was formally renamed LBI Media, Inc.—to its first lien lender, private equity firm HPS Investment Partners, LLC, which sponsored the reorganization plan; the reorganization eliminated more than $350 million of debt from its balance sheet. As part of the corporate reorganization, co-founder/CEO Lenard Liberman divested his equity in LBI and was replaced as the company’s CEO by former Granite Broadcasting and Communications Corporation of America Chairman Peter Markham. On February 3, 2020, LBI Media rebranded as Estrella Media, borrowing its name from flagship Spanish-language network Estrella TV.