Inside Move: No clear signal on ABC radio sale

Impending deal does not mean Disney will leave biz

Even as Disney inched closer Monday to selling its ABC Radio division to Citadel Broadcasting, insiders said it was far from certain the conglom was actually getting out of the business.

A sale to Citadel — which the New York Times pegged at nearly $3 billion — would likely not include ABC’s ESPN- and Radio Disney-branded stations (including KSPN-AM and KDIS-AM locally). Nor would it include Disney’s ABC News radio franchise.

That would keep Disney involved in the radio biz to some degree, albeit not at current levels. ABC Radio owns 72 stations nationwide.

Insiders stressed that it’s also still unclear whether Disney will ultimately sell the stations at all, to Citadel or anyone. Mouse hasn’t been in a rush to sell ABC Radio, having mulled divesting the unit for several years before finally putting the division on the block last summer.

Since then, the company has slowly weeded out potential suitors (including Emmis Communications and Cumulus Media). Entercom Communications and equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts also submitted bids last week, and appeared to be finalists, but Disney wound up launching exclusive talks this week with Citadel.

An ABC Radio purchase would give Citadel a presence in major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Right now, Citadel is focused on midlevel markets, owning and/or operating155 FM and 58 AM radio outlets in 47 markets.

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