Emmis Reaches Deal to Sell Indy Radio Stations – Inside Indiana Business

(Photo IIB/Alex Brown)

Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp. on Monday announced an agreement to sell radio stations in its home market, including longtime local stalwart WIBC-FM 93.1, to Maryland-based Urban One, which already owns several local stations.

Other Emmis stations that would be sold under the deal are WYXB-FM 105.7 (B105), WLHK-FM 97.1 (Hank FM) and WFNI-FM 93.5 and 105.5 (both known under the name of The Fan). The deal also includes Network Indiana, which provides news, talk and spot programming to more than 70 stations in Indiana.

Emmis’ Indianapolis radio stations have 77 full-time and 50 part-time employees, all based at the company’s headquarters in Monument Circle.

The terms of the contract are not disclosed.

Emmis will still own Indianapolis Monthly magazine and two radio station licenses in New York, as well as several new sales and marketing-focused ventures. He plans to keep his Monument Circle seat and assess its future use later, a spokeswoman said. Emmis moved into the building at 40 Monument Circle in 1998.

“When Emmis launched our first station, WENS now Hank FM, in 1981, I could never have imagined the journey we would take,” said Jeff Smulyan, Founder and President of Emmis.

“Indianapolis is my hometown, and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “We have become an invaluable contributor to the Indianapolis community, a leader in radio industry initiative and innovation, and a trusted resource for listeners and businesses in the Midtown. ‘Indiana.”

Alfred Liggins, president and CEO of Urban One, said in a statement that the Indianapolis stations are “tremendous general market formats (better variety, country, news and sports) and will be a great addition to Urban One in an accretive transaction and deleveraging.

Urban One, which has offices at 21 E St. Joseph St., is the largest diverse company targeting black and urban consumers in the United States. Its portfolio of Indianapolis properties includes WTLC-FM 106.7 and WTLC-AM 1310 (The Light)), WNOW-HD3 105.1 (La Grande) and television station WDNI Channel 19 (Telemundo).

The agreement is subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission. In anticipation of the transaction, Urban One will sell its Indianapolis station WHHH-FM 96.3 (Hot 96.3) and related intellectual property to Radio Now (WNOW-FM 100.9) to a third party.

In a Monday afternoon email to Emmis Communications employees, Smulyan described preparations for the proposed sale.

“Urban One approached us and made us an offer that we felt was worth exploring and, after many conversations, worth accepting,” Smulyan wrote as part of the email obtained by IBJ. “The sale provides Emmis with additional financial resources to continue exploring new, high-growth business opportunities, but also comes with all the excitement of giving up something you love.”

Smulyan also wrote of the potential changes in personnel: “As with any integration of two local operations, there will be changes in people and processes. Emmis will manage these changes with the compassion our culture demands and is committed to working with Urban One for a successful transition.

In Indianapolis, Emmis has 56 employees who will continue to work with the company after the radio stations are sold. These roles include corporate staff members, Indianapolis Monthly magazine staff, and dynamic pricing company Digonex staff.

Emmis, which Smulyan founded in 1980, once owned more than 20 US stations, including properties in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Austin, Texas.

In recent years, Emmis has sold many of its media assets and focused on new ventures that emphasize its sales and marketing background, including Sound That Brands, the Los Angeles-based podcasting studio Angeles specializing in branded audio content for national advertisers, and Digonex, a leading provider of dynamic pricing solutions for the attractions and live entertainment industries.

This is not the first time Urban One has completed a station transaction with Emmis. In 2001, Urban One (then known as Radio One) purchased the intellectual property rights from WTLC. In 2007, Urban One purchased the intellectual property rights to Radio Now.

Seven properties owned by Emmis and Urban One ranked among the 20 most popular Indianapolis resorts among listeners ages 6 and older in April, according to Nielsen Arbitron ratings.

Emmis held positions #2 (WIBC), #3 (B105), #5 (Hank FM), and #12 (The Fan). Urban One held the No. 4 (WTLC), No. 14 (Hot 96.3) and No. 19 (Radio Now 100.9) spots.

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