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Emmis Buys Two in NYC

Says gaining WBLS, WLIB to nearly double company’s station operating income

Emmis Communications Corp. is buying WBLS(FM) and WLIB(AM) in New York from YMF Media for some $131 million in cash.

Both stations currently target an African-American audience; WBLS features an urban contemporary format and WLIB offers urban gospel.

Emmis President/CEO Jeff Smulyan says the deal “is indicative of our belief in the U.S. radio industry and our desire to increase our footprint in the nation’s largest market.”

Emmis, which already owns WQHT(FM) in the market, says the purchase will nearly double the company’s annual station operating income in the New York market. During calendar 2013, WBLS and WLIB reported approximately $31.9 million in net revenues and about $16.5 million of station operating expenses, excluding depreciation and amortization, resulting in some $15.4 million of station operating income.

In addition, Emmis anticipates saving about $3 million of annual expense by combining these stations with WQHT. The WBLS/WLIB operations and studios have been collocated with WQHT since 2012, and more than 40% of their employees are Emmis alumni, according to the broadcaster. The acquisition is subject to antitrust review, however Emmis could begin programming the stations under an LMA in March.

YMF Media CEO and WBLS/WLIB GM Deon Levingston will become GM of Emmis’ New York cluster when the LMA begins. Levingston previously worked for Emmis in various management roles. 

The purchase price will be paid in two installments. The first payment of approximately $55 million will occur after the initial grant of the FCC’s consent to assignment of the stations’ FCC licenses, expected to be in the summer of 2014. The second payment of approximately $76 million will occur in February, 2015.

Emmis will finance the acquisition through a new senior credit facility and plans to access the institutional loan market in the coming months.