Is WLW-AM, the city's No. 1 station, for sale? That's today's bombshell.
The U.S. Department of Justice today ordered Clear Channel to sell stations in Cincinnati, Houston, Las Vegas and San Francisco in order for a group of private equity investors led by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners to proceed with purchasing a controlling interest in Clear Channel.
Cincinnati and Houston are targeted because Bain and Lee Partners control a 50 percent interest in Cumulus Media Partners, which owns stations in those markets. Cumulus owns WRRM-FM (WARM98.5), WGRR-FM (103.5) and WFTK-FM (96.5 Rock). Clear Channel owns eight stations: talk stations WLW-AM (700) and WKRC-AM (550); rock stations WEBN-FM (102.7), WKFS-FM (KISS107.1), WOFX-FM (FOX92.5) and WNNF-FM (Radio94.1); and sports talks stations WCKY-AM (1530 Homer) and WSAI-AM (ESPN 1360).
The combined audience share for Clear Channel and Cumulus stations exceeds 59 percent in Cincinnati, the government said. So tghe divestitures were ordered so that the new owners would not have too much control over radio advertising rates here, the government said.
The government did not specify which stations must be sold here. But I'm told that Clear Channel managers here told employees Tuesday that the company could consider selling off WLW-AM and KISS107.1, or the tandem of FOX92.1 and Radio94.1 (the old MIX94.1).
Selling WLW-AM isn't that far-fetched. Yes, it has the biggest audience, and probably generates the most money. But with Willie, McConnell, Jim Scott and the news staff, it likely has the highest payroll. If CC wants to get this $19-billion deal done, it could dump the Big One and KISS and move on. What other properties would be more attractive?
Get braced for more radio changes in Cincinnati
Which stations do you expect them to spin off? Would they sell WEBN? Which ones would benefit from a change in ownership? And how much would you bet that former WLW owner Randy Michaels could end up with his old station again?