Maine’s first television station, started by a former governor, is expected to be sold to media giant Gray Television Inc. for $85 million.

Portland-based Diversified Communications said in a release Thursday that it intends to divest itself of WABI in Bangor, and a second television station it owns in Gainesville, Florida, WCJB. Both transactions to Gray Television must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

WABI carries CBS and The CW programming. It began broadcasting in 1953 and was owned by former Gov. Horace Hildreth, a Republican who served from 1945-1949.

“This was a very difficult decision by our board of directors, but we feel it is the right one,” Daniel Hildreth, Diversified’s board chair and grandson of the former governor, said in the release. “We believe that under the ownership of Gray, WCJB and WABI will have greater opportunities for long-term financial success which will ultimately benefit both our employees and viewers.”

Based in Atlanta, Gray owns and/or operates 100 television stations across 54 markets. It said in a company release that the transaction would reunite WABI with another Gray-owned station in Presque Isle, WAGM, “thereby facilitating further news and resource sharing between these stations.”

Diversified began as a radio station in 1949, acquiring WABI-AM in Bangor, and expanded into television broadcasting with the launch of WABI-TV in 1953. Diversified later acquired WCJB-TV in Gainesville, Florida.

The primary focus of Diversified now is producing domestic and international trade shows, and publishing trade publications and digital products. It employs 850 people across seven countries, including more than 250 in Maine.

If it receives regulatory approval, the deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

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