Emmis Communications Corp., after years of cutting debt, is going on the offensive, agreeing to purchase the No. 2 radio station in New York and its sister station for $131 million in cash.
The Indianapolis-based media company on Tuesday night announced the deal to acquire the stations from YMF Media.
Emmis already operates WQHT Hot 97 in New York. The purchase adds adult contemporary WBLS–FM 107.5, New York’s No. 2 station, along with WLIB-AM 1190, which has an urban gospel format.
Emmis said the deal would double the company’s annual station operating income.
"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 CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a statement.
The purchase price will be paid in two installments. The first payment of about $55 million will occur after the Federal Communications Commission consents to assignment of the stations' licenses, expected in the summer of 2014. The second payment, about $76 million, will occur in February 2015.
In 2013, WBLS and WLIB reported about $15.4 million in operating income. Emmis expects to realize about $3 million of annual expense savings by combining those stations with HOT 97.
The WBLS/WLIB operations and studios have been co-located with HOT 97 since 2012, and more than 40 percent of their employees are Emmis alumni.
Deon Levingston, CEO of YMF Media and general manager of WBLS/WLIB, will become GM of Emmis' New York cluster. Levingston previously worked for Emmis in various management roles.
Emmis owns 18 FM and 3 AM radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Austin, Indianapolis and Terre Haute.