A ‘Clubsteppin’ Chicago Combo Sells For Millions

0

In Chicago, “Clubsteppin” is a lifestyle, enveloped by the sounds of 1970s and 1980s tunes you’d likely hear on “Soul Train” or perhaps boogie to while dancing.


One year ago, an online radio station founded by Lamont Watts gained an over-the-air home, using a pair of FM translators sharing the same signal, giving it coverage of such communities as Oak Park, Broadview, Berwyn, and the southside of the Windy City.

Now, the translators are being sold in a multi-million dollar deal.

From the top of the Willis Tower, with a directional signal pointing south, is 60-watt W236CF.

On a separate tower, running west of the Loop, is 250-watt W236CG, licensed to Bolingbrook.

Both are at 95.1 MHz, and are synchronized in lock step, with Chicago-licensed W236CF aligned to best serve the African American community of Chicago.

And now, they’re heading to an entity led by a corporate strategy and integrated marketing pro who began her career in 1991 at the former WJPC-AM 950 in Chicago, for Johnson Publishing Company.

Tracey V. Bell
Tracey V. Bell

The buyer of the translators is Integrate Brand Marketing Company, led by President Tracey V. Bell, who informally uses the I.B.M. brand name for her business.

The seller is broadcast media investor John Bridge‘s Windy City Broadcasting, and in an asset purchase agreement dated August 3 and posted by the FCC on Wednesday (8/28), I.B.M. is agreeing to pay $3.5 million for the translators.

Given the limited signal coverage of the nation’s No. 3 market, the price is exceptionally noteworthy.

Also of note is a $15,000 LMA, payable monthly for the first three months. Starting with the fourth month, the LMA price jumps to $25,000. Should a default under the LMA agreement occur, it will also trigger a default of the purchase agreement, which starts a 10-day period after which the non-defaulting party can terminate the deal.

A $100,000 deposit has been made, and a second $100,000 deposit — nonrefundable — is due Sept. 3. The remainder is due, in cash, at closing.

That alone is headline worthy.

“This will be the highest all-cash price paid for a translator in the history of American broadcasting,” notes Bob Heymann, Chicago-based broker with Media Services Group.

‘THE METRICS ARE ASTOUNDING’

David Schutz of Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based Hoffman Schutz Media Capital ran the population numbers on the two translators.

“The Price/Population metric is impressive and actually exceeds that for the recent $43 million sale of full-power KLOS-FM in Los Angeles,” Schutz says.

According to Schutz’s computations, the 60 dBu signal contours of the two Chicago translators reach 1,072,000 people. Of this total, W236CF, operating from the Willis Tower, covers 856,000; W236CG in Bolingbrook covers 216,000 persons.

“The $3,500,000 price for the translators equates to a Price/Population metric of $3.26/PP,” he says. “This metric is noteworthy among translators in major markets where the metrics typically are closer to $1.00/PP.”

The sale of KLOS had a $2.62/PP metric.

“The metrics are astounding,” Schutz says.

According to BIA Advisory services, the highest-priced cash deal involving an FM translator to close thus far is a $1.8 million acquisition of K224CJ, at 92.7 MHz, in Phoenix, by Hubbard Broadcasting.

Next highest-priced paid in an all-cash translator deal was seen in July, as iHeartMedia acquired K229BS at 93.7 MHz in the Denver DMA for its “Freedom” Talk radio KDFD-AM 760. This deal was also valued at $1.8 million.

The record price for an FM translator to date was to have been $4.6 million — agreed to by Elroy Smith’s Integrity Radio — for W264BF at 100.7 MHz in Chicago. The deal never closed, and today the facility is owned by Calvary Radio Network.

CLUBSTEPPIN CONTINUATION

According to local media observer Robert Feder, “With a mix of urban dance music, classic rhythm-and-blues and smooth jazz, the station features Tom Joyner’s syndicated show in mornings. Khris Henderson-Hutchinson, the midday host known as ‘First Lady,’ continues as PD.”

It’s an evolution of an internet-only offering that began in 2005 by Watts, a former PD of Urban Talk WVON-AM in Chicago. With its August 2018 arrival on the translators, Clubsteppin replaced a Rock format branded as “The Hound,” RadioInsight.com reports.

The Joyner-hosted program is temporarily off Clubsteppin, pending a new contract between Reach Media and Bell’s company.

The translators are fed by the HD2 signal of WLEY-FM 107.9, the Spanish Broadcasting System-owned regional Mexican station serving Chicago.

With Bell’s buy, Clubsteppin’s place on the Chicago radio dial is only solidified, as she also has served as the President of Diversity in Promotions Inc. since June 2014. This role came after a decade as Chairman and President of Purses and Pockets with a Purpose, a non-profit corporation with a mission to help and heal those challenged by socio-economic, health and well-being issues. 

From June 2011-June 2014, she was a Manager of Supplier Supply on the retail side for Walgreens.