Imus nearing radio return

Citadel deal brews for shock jock

Don Imus’ long-rumored return to the radio dial seems to be quickly coming to fruition.

Imus is in talks with Citadel Broadcasting, owner of ABC Radio, which syndicates talkshow hosts Sean Hannity and Tom Joyner.

The impending deal appears to rule out any potential move to satellite radio. Sirius Satellite Radio chief Mel Karmazin indicated over the summer that he, too, would be interested in doing a deal with Imus.

Imus was fired from CBS Radio, which produced his show, and MSNBC, which simulcast it, after making racist remarks about the Rutgers U. women’s basketball team.

Imus apologized and subsequently won a $20 million settlement from CBS Radio for terminating his contract, which still had years remaining worth $40 million. The civil suits against him were dropped, and he spent the summer working for his charity, the Imus Ranch for Kids.

Radio sources have long predicted that Imus would land at Citadel, which acquired ABC Radio Networks from Walt Disney Co. in 2006, but said another talk giant, New York’s WOR, also made a play for his services.

If and when a deal is finalized, the question remains on which stations Imus will end up. Citadel CEO Farid Suleman is negotiating the agreement, but ABC Radio Network and the ABC Radio stations have a tradition of making their own talent decisions.

WABC general manager Steve Borneman denied in August that any talks with Imus had taken place. Citadel also owns FM station WPLJ in New York.

If a deal is reached, Imus could be back on the air by early next year.