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Emmis selling three major radio stations

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Emmis Communications Corp. has reached an agreement to sell three big-market radio stations to a partnership involving a private equity firm and a prominent media executive, the company disclosed Tuesday morning.

Indianapolis-based Emmis said it will receive between $110 million and $130 million in upfront cash for Chicago stations WLUP-FM 97.9 and WKQX-FM 101.1, and New York station WRXP-FM 101.9.

The buyer is GTCR Merlin Holdings LLC, a partnership between Chicago-based equity firm GTCR LLC and Randy Michaels, the former CEO of media giants the Tribune Co. and Clear Channel Communications Inc.

Additionally, Emmis said it will receive a preferred stock interest in the partnership worth between $28 million and $47 million as well as common equity in the partnership.

The sale is subject to regulatory approvals.

“We believe this transaction will create significant value for our shareholders," said Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan in a prepared statement. "As a minority holder in Merlin Media, we look forward to continuing to provide innovative programming to our audiences in Chicago and New York.

Emmis shares were up 14 percent, or 15 cents per share, Tuesday morning, to $1.20 each.

Michaels resigned from the Tribune Co. last year amid media reports of a frat-house corporate culture in the firm's executive offices.

According to Emmis regulatory filing, the three stations accounted for $25.3 million in revenue in fiscal year 2011, which ended Feb. 28, and a profit of $1.4 million.

As a company, Emmis had $185.2 million in revenue from radio operations during the same time frame and lost $25.2 million. Emmis owns 23 radio stations in seven U.S. markets.

The two Chicago stations in the deal have been radio mainstays in the market for decades. WLUP, better known as "The Loop," has been a classic rock giant in Chicago since the 1970s. Emmis acquired the station from Bonneville International Corp. in 2004.

WKQX, known as Q101, plays modern rock. It was acquired by Emmis in 1988 from NBC.

WRXP in New York changed call letters when it switched from a smooth jazz format to alternative rock in 2008. Emmis bought the station from the Tribune Co. in 1997 when it used the call letters WQCD.

 

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