Smulyan Rebuffs Investor’s Overture

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Emmis Communications Corp. CEO Jeff Smulyan is firing back at an Elkhart investor who held a video teleconference with directors last week to encourage them to sell the struggling company’s properties piecemeal.

The investor, Frank Martin of Martin Capital Management, said in a regulatory filing Sept. 14 that the company should seriously consider selling its radio stations and other holdings and “return capital to … shareholders before [the company’s] value may diminish further.”

Martin, whose firm owns 9.7 percent of Emmis’ stock, has been a thorn in the side of Smulyan for more than a year. Among other issues, Martin wants Emmis to eliminate a special class of stock Smulyan holds that gives him voting control of the company, even though his ownership stake is less than 20 percent.

But in a statement released by Emmis Friday evening, Smulyan noted that Martin over the past two months has boosted his Emmis stake, despite his outspoken criticism of the company’s management. Smulyan also notes that Martin poured more money into the company even though he was well aware of the special class of stock.

“Seems to me that Mr. Martin implicitly accepts management’s strategy and the rules and guidelines each time he purchases a share of Emmis stock,” Smulyan wrote.

“We hear Mr. Martin’s concerns, and management will remain focused on creating shareholder value, but we don’t accept Mr. Martin’s request to destroy Emmis and sell it in parts.”

In the statement, Smulyan added that he and his board “continue to believe in the long-term viability of Emmis and its media assets, and the radio industry overall. We will continue to pursue the creation of shareholder value by investing in our current portfolio and special initiatives, such as Emmis Interactive,” the company’s Internet marketing initiative.

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