For many regular listeners at WBLS and WLIB, it comes as no surprise that Emmis Communications is now the official owner of WBLS/WLIB, having purchased it from YMF Media for $131 million.
“This is something that has been in the works for quite a while,” said one longtime listener of the station. “It was never a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Now that it’s official, let’s see how it impacts programming, especially my favorite shows.”
According to several news sources, the purchase will sizably increase Emmis’ operating income. The purchase price, it has been reported, will be paid in two installments that will begin with a first payment of $55 million as soon as the Federal Communications Commission approves the licensing agreement, which may occur as early as this summer. The second payment of approximately $76 million is expected to happen a year from now.
“Today’s announcement is indicative of our belief in the U.S. radio industry and our desire to increase our footprint in the nation’s largest market,” Emmis President and CEO Jeff Smulyan told reporters. “Emmis has deep ties to the New York African-American community, and it is with great pride we take the helm of these iconic stations.”
Attempts to reach Deon Levingston, president of YMF Media and market manager of the radio stations, as well as other executives at the station, were unsuccessful at press time.
But one person who’s familiar with the case echoed what others have suspected about the deal. “All of this was clearly obvious once they entered the picture,” he said of Emmis. “This was the endgame, and it was pretty evident once they moved the station downtown. Everything—office space, studio space, advertising, technical facilities—was under Emmis management and control.”
One guest on some of the shows when called by the station noticed that Emmis was the name that flashed on the ID prompt.
In an earlier interview for another publication, Levingston, a seven-year veteran at the station, expressed great excitement about being promoted to president of YMF Media last year. “I’m very excited about this promotion,” he said. “I believe I have been blessed to work for the best of the best … Emmis and Jeff Smulyan gave me my first radio management position, and Cathy Hughes and Alfred Liggins [of Radio One] promoted me to my first general manager position. The one thing that they all stressed to me over the years is that you win through your people. I firmly believe we have some of the most talented and creative minds in our industry at YMF Media LLC.”
Well, folks don’t have to speculate any longer; it’s a done deal, and Emmis, which also owns WQHT (Hot 97), can stick another feather in its already considerable cap and expand its airwaves upon getting the consent of the Federal Communications Commission.