Bill Cunningham Working For The Mormons?
Now here's something to think about: What if the Mormons ran WLW-AM? What would it sound like?
It could happen. Bonneville – which owns WUBE-FM (B105) and WKRQ-FM (Q102) -- may be interested in buying WLW-AM from Clear Channel, which has been ordered by the U.S. Justice Department to sell two
The government has ordered Clear Channel to sell either one of two specific pairs of stations -- news-sports talk WLW-AM (700) and top 40 WKFS-FM (KISS107.1) or classic rock WOFX-FM (FOX92.5) and adult contemporary WNNF-FM (Radio94.1).
The mandate is part of the government's conditional approval of the $28-billion acquisition of Clear Channel, the nation's biggest radio owner, by two private equity investors, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Clear Channel must sell two of its eight
Clear Channel executives have not decided with tandem to sell, says Michelle Clarke, company spokeswoman. A decision must be made by the time Bain and Lee Partners close on the Clear Channel deal, which is expected to occur before March 31, says Mark Mays, Clear Channel CEO.
The most attractive package would be WLW-AM, the 50,000-watt station heard in 34 states, and KISS107, the No. 1 station with listeners ages 18-34. But they won't be cheap. Brokers estimate that Clear Channel's AM flagship could cost anywhere from $50 million to more than $100 million, plus another $30-35 million for the FM rocker.
The pair of FM stations could be had for about $65 million -- $45 million for FOX92.5 and $20 million the former MIX94.1, brokers say.
Although WLW is the flagship, the 800 pound gorilla in this market, selling off WLW-AM "makes the most sense because Clear Channel can get the most money from it," says Rob Riggsbee, president of Inside Media, a
Among the potential buyers are Bonneville, and Randy Michaels, the former Clear Channel radio division president and WLW-AM owner, says John L. Pierce, a Florence-based media broker. Michaels is head of broadcast operations for the Chicago-based Tribune Co., which owns TV and radio stations.
Bobby Lawrence, the former Jacor radio executive who heads LocalTV LLC in
"If I ever got back into the radio business it would be to own WLW, which as you might remember was our flagship back when we started Seven Hills. Unfortunately that doesn't work for us right now as we are exclusively working on building out our TV platform. No radio in the portfolio,"
"I had heard that the Bonneville folks had a strong interest. They would be a natural buyer for this kind of a situation. Frankly it is my bet that CC won't sell WLW. It's just too valuable and an asset you can't duplicate,"
After Bonneville bought the B105/Q102 group in late 2006, "Bonneville executives said they wanted a local news-talk AM (station) here," Riggsbee says.
Bonneville has major new-talk AM stations in Washington D.C., Salt Lake City, Seattle and other cities, says Peter Handy, a Dallas-based radio broker for Star Media Corp. "Stations like WLW – minus the 'bad boy' image – are of big interest to Bonneville," Handy says.
So if Bonneville bought "The Big One," how would it change? Would they tone down Bill Cunningham and Scott Sloan, or just part ways? I imagine some sexy and sensational topics would be off-limits. The whole wise-ass, in-your-face tone of the station could change, I'm guessing. Maybe Powel Crosley Jr. is smiling at the prospects…
If WLW-AM is sold, the buyer also control most of the top sports franchises. Whichever tandem is sold, the Bengals will lose an affiliate. Bengals games have been simulcast on WLW-AM and FOX92.5 (and WCKY-AM, 1530 Homer). Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan says the team's deal is with Clear Channel, and the team would talk to Clear Channel about adding games to another station.
So lots of things could change if WLW-AM changes hands. If Clear Channel sells off the two FMs, it probably would prompt more format changes, but nothing as dramatic as what could happen to WLW-AM.
In terms of Cincinnati radio changes, this could be The Big One. What do you think?