Clearance sale

Pre-merger, radio giant trims 72 stations

Thirteen station groups hit the radio lotto Monday, as Clear Channel Communications revealed agreements to sell 72 stations in 27 markets as part of its merger with AMFM Inc.

The divestitures had been in the works for some time in the wake of Clear Channel’s $23.5 billion merger announcement last October. The sell-offs are necessary to satisfy FCC ownership requirements.

Infinity Broadcasting will make the richest deal in conjunction with the Clear Channel divestiture, paying $1.4 billion for 18 radio stations in seven markets: Phoenix; San Diego; Denver; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Orlando, Fla.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.

Infinity’s radio division had previously owned stations in only two of those markets, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

“This acquisition is consistent with Infinity’s strategy of acquiring radio and outdoor properties in the nation’s largest revenue markets,” said Infinity CEO Mel Karmazin.

The other major buyer among big broadcasters was Cox Radio, which will spend $380 million to pick up three stations in Houston and four in Richmond, Va.

“It’s a nice mix of startup and developing stations,” said Neil Johnston, vice president of development for Cox Broadcasting.

Midmarket station owner Cumulus Media picked up 11 stations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Harrisburg, Pa.; Melbourne, Fla.; and Shreveport, La.

Spanish lingo group Hispanic Broadcasting, in which Clear Channel owns a 29% stake, will land new outlets in Austin, Denver and Phoenix.

Chase takes 11

Chase Radio Partners picked up 11 stations in Baltimore; Biloxi, Miss.; Reading, Pa.; Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.; San Diego; San Francisco; San Jose; and Waco, Texas.

And religious broadcaster Salem Communications gets a crack at eight stations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver and Orange County, Calif.

Elsewhere, the big winners in the first round of Clear Channel/AMFM divestitures were small operators, such as Spanish-lingo Entravision Communications, which will take over current Adult Album Alternative outlet KACD/KBCD Los Angeles.

Cincinnati-based Blue Chip Broadcasting landed one outlet, and Houston-based El Dorado Communications landed five stations in their respective home ports; Silver Spring, Md.-based Mega Communications will add a Daytona Beach, Fla. outlet; Princeton, N.J.-based Nassau Broadcasting Partners picks up two in Allentown, Pa.

Pecan Partners lands a station in Austin, Texas, and Urban Radio Broadcasting will buy two stations in Pensacola, Fla.

Regulator must OK

All divestitures are subject to regulatory approval, and a second round of further sales will be announced shortly. Clear Channel still has at least 30 more stations that must be spun off to meet FCC approval.

Minority-owned Radio One is expected to receive a lion’s share of those stations, including sought-after Los Angeles urban outlet KKBT, which Emmis Broadcasting has also been pursuing.

Cox’s Johnston, for one, didn’t think the company would be in the running for any more of Clear Channel’s castoffs.

Radio execs noted that, when combined, the stations being sold off by Clear Channel would be considered one of the largest radio groups in the country.

“I think they had a very complex process,” Johnston said. “They were tough but fair.”

The move comes just one week after Clear Channel announced plans to acquire concert promoter SFX Entertainment for $4.4 billion.

As a result of the announcement, as well as a less-than-glowing article in Barron’s magazine over the weekend, Clear Channel stock dropped $4.38 to close at $68 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pending various mergers, Clear Channel operates approximately 874 radio and 19 television stations.

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