updated 11/7/2005 11:14:26 AM ET 2005-11-07T16:14:26

Paxson Communications Corp. founder and chief executive Bud Paxson is resigning from the broadcast network and television station operator, the company said Monday.

He will be succeeded as chief executive by R. Brandon Burgess, an executive vice president of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, which owns a 32 percent stake in Paxson. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

As part of a new agreement with Paxson, NBC Universal has 18 months to either acquire the company, which is based in West Palm Beach, Fla., or find a third party to buy Paxson.

NBC Universal, which acquired its stake in Paxson in 1999 for $415 million with a call right to become majority owner of the company in 2009, has been pushing for a management change there.

The two companies have also squabbled over their ownership structure and the financial terms of NBC Universal's investment in the company.

Burgess will resign from NBC Universal to assume his new post.

If the call right is not exercised or transferred within 18 months, then Paxson Communications public shareholders, excluding Bud Paxson, will receive instead $105 million face value of Paxson's Series B preferred stock.

Current government regulations would make it difficult for NBC to become majority owner of Paxson, which means the company will likely look to a new buyer.

Paxson, which operates 60 television stations reaching about 83 percent of U.S. households, has struggled financially for the last several years and dropped most of its ambitious original programming efforts. The company hopes that this new peace treaty with NBC Universal will make it easier for it to refinance its balance sheet.

"NBC Universal has been the largest financial investor in Paxson Communications for some time, and we continue to believe that Paxson Communications has a compelling national platform," said Bob Wright, Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal.

"This agreement gives Paxson Communications the flexibility to invite new partners and investors who do not face the same FCC limitations that we do and who are interested in investing in and programming a nationwide television distribution platform."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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