Merlin’s Final Magic Act: A Chicago Sale To Cumulus

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In June 2011, headlines blared the news that Randy Michaels — the flamboyant showman who took Jacor Communications and grew it into a 1990s-era radio industry force that’s now a part of iHeartMedia — was back in the business as an owner.


With funding from Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR, a newly formed entity named Merlin Media agreed to purchase an FM in New York and two Windy City FMs from Emmis Communications in a deal with a total value of $198 million.

The Chicago stations dealt to Merlin Media were Alternative WKQX-FM “Q101” and Classic Rock WLUP-FM 97.9. Unfortunately, Merlin’s experience as an owner of radio stations wasn’t exactly a positive one. By January 2014, it relinquished control of Q101 and WLUP to Cumulus Media with the crafting of an LMA-to-purchase agreement.

Now, Cumulus is moving forward with its right to acquire the FMs.

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