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KUTV-Channel 2, Utah's NBC affiliate, is closer to that network than ever before.

NBC announced Tuesday that it has purchased the 88 percent of the station held by VS&A Communications Partners, L.P.KUTV's longtime owners, the Hatch family, will retain their 12 percent interest.

The purchase price was not immediately available but has been reported to be in the $100 million range for both KUTV and and production company TeleScene.

KUTV employees were informed of the sale at a meeting Tuesday morning, and NBC and KUTV held a noon press conference at the station to officially announce the transaction.

Robert C. Wright, NBC's president and chief executive officer, said in a press release, "In this time of dynamic change in the television industry, the strategic importance of our owned-and-operated stations has never been greater. The growth potential of the Salt Lake City market, coupled with the performance of KUTV as an affiliate, made it a logical choice for the station to join our six other owned-and-operated stations."

The sale, which is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, would bring KUTV into the NBC family with stations that are in television markets considerably larger than No. 37 Salt Lake City. NBC's other owned stations are in New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington D.C.; Miami; and Denver.

And the sale would bring the number of network owned-and-operated stations in Salt Lake City to two - KSTU-Channel 13 is a Fox O&O.

NBC TV Stations President John Rohrbeck, "transition team leader" Roger Ogden (president of NBC-owned KCNC in Denver) and current KUTV President Jeffrey Hatch met with station employees Tuesday morning.

"We look forward to working with KUTV employees to make the station the market leader in Salt Lake City," Rohrbeck said in a release. He also told employees their jobs were secure.

In a memo to station employees, Wright wrote, "As you will discover, NBC is a diversified company offering a wide variety of challenging opportunities."

NBC beat out more than three dozen other potential buyers for KUTV. Among those that expressed at least some interest in the station were Capital Cities-ABC, Scripps-Howard, Hearst, River Cities, Shamrock and a number of other major station groups.

Also interested in buying the station was Paul Hughes, who heads the VS&A Partners, and who at one time was working with a General Electric-owned company to arrange financial backing for his bid. (G.E. is the parent company of NBC.)