Americas Voice Deal May Finally Close

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Insisting that they finally have financing in place, executives at bankrupt cable channel America's Voice expect to close a deal with a new owner this week.

The new owner would be Ray Horn Syndication Inc., and a major investor in the network will be another unknown company called EcinéInc.

The deal was supposed to close Aug. 17, but Horn didn't come up with all of the financing until last week, America's Voice chairman Robert Sutton said last week.

Within the past several weeks, Horn has lent America's Voice $400,000 to allow it to continue operating. Last week, Horn put an additional $500,000 into an escrow account, assuring him that he'll be able to acquire the network for a total value of $900,000, Sutton said.

In July, America's Voice cut a deal to sell its assets to a joint venture formed by Carleigh Films Inc. and Wild Frontier Network Inc., which planned to turn the political-talk network into the first cable channel with a focus on Native-American programming. But Carleigh and Wild Frontier never came up with appropriate financing, Sutton said.

Horn said he plans to digitize America's Voice's feed into three networks, including one that will focus on 3-D programming.

Layoffs may be in store for America's Voice, which currently has about 40 employees, Horn said, adding that he plans to maintain all department heads for 90 days to assess who will stay.

"There's no guarantee that anybody will be there after that," he said.

Meanwhile, America's Voice-which cut a deal with Miami-based 5th Avenue Channel Corp. in March to lease some daytime air to the financial-news purveyor-pulled that company's Net Financial News programming last Monday for nonpayment, Sutton said.

That effectively terminated most of 5th Avenue's distribution, since it lost America's Voice's 11 million full-time and part-time subscribers.

The company's only other distributor is Comcast Corp., which carries Net Financial News on overflow channels in systems counting about 2 million subscribers.

Recently, 5th Avenue obtained a temporary restraining order that would have forced America's Voice to put the program back on the air, but the order stated that 5th Avenue must first pay $127,500 it owes to America's Voice.

America's Voice attorney Richard Gross said the network hasn't received the payment from 5th Avenue and, therefore, it isn't obligated to run the programming.

Mel Rosen, CEO of 5th Avenue, said last week that America's Voice actually owes him money.

"We filed papers claiming that they owe us $1 million," he said, insisting that America's Voice had earlier pulled some of his shows to run infomercials it sold.

America's Voice officials refuted that claim, insisting that they lived up to the terms of their contract with 5th Avenue.

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