For two decades, a 50kw Class A AM radio station with a tower famously located where New Jersey Route 17 meets Interstate 80 en route to the George Washington Bridge was America’s most-listened-to radio stations.
Throughout the Vietnam War, it was this station’s air personalities who had their shows recorded and sent to those in the U.S. Armed Forces as a way to hear the latest hits and stay connected to home.
From May 10, 1982 through today, this station has had a Talk format, through various incarnations under original owner ABC, and then Citadel before landing with Cumulus Media.
Now, WABC-AM 770 in New York — a faded legend steeped in radio lore — is set to get a rebirth of sorts.
It’s just been sold to a local businessman who has a penchant for Talk radio.
And, the valuation may be startling to some.
What may also be unnerving, in particular to Cumulus staff, is the sale of another property.
This led Cumulus President/CEO Mary Berner to address these possible concerns head-on in a staff memo distributed Thursday morning (6/27) that explains how the company’s expected sale of WABC is “another step forward to optimize our portfolio of assets and bolster our financial position.”
RED APPLE BITE
Red Apple is a newly formed entity owned by an individual behind two venerable grocery chains in Manhattan, and for a talk program heard online and on a host of East Coast conservative talk stations.
In the internal memo obtained by RBR+TVBR, Berner said the sale of WABC “will allow us to generate additional cash for paying down debt and investing in the company.”
Cumulus emerged from debtor-in-possession status on June 4, 2018.
Since then, CMLS has resumed trading on Wall Street and is trading in the mid-$17 range.
The sale of WABC leaves Cumulus with one remaining station in New York.
That’s because Cumulus in February revealed that WPLJ-FM 95.5 would be included in the sale of six stations to Educational Media Foundation for $103.5 million. At the same time, it swapped its Country WNSH-FM 94.7 in Newark, N.J., to Entercom, along with its Class B AC WMAS-FM 94.7 and 1kw Class C WHLL-AM 1450 “NASH Icon” in Springfield, Mass., in exchange of WXNT-AM, WNTR-FM and WZPL-FM in Indianapolis.
Awaiting a buyer is WNBM-FM 103.9, licensed to tony Bronxville, where upper Manhattan meets Westchester County. For years, this facility was WFAS-FM, an AC serving Westchester. Today, it is an Urban AC under the “Radio 103.9 New York” brand, with a tweaked Class A signal reaching Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, lower Westchester County, and much of Bergen County, N.J.
“We do expect to sell WNBM and exit the New York City market,” Berner said.
When, and to whom, remain questions.
For some, other questions likely focus on the future of Cumulus.
Berner wants those questions to cease immediately.
“It can’t be said enough: we are focused on making the decisions that make the most sense for our station portfolio and the company,” she said. “In some cases, that will mean selling stations, and in other cases it will mean acquisitions. In New York’s case, we’ll be exiting a market that has been tough for us, and through these deals we will be able to realize significant value for the company – over and above what we could have generated from continued operations. And for anyone who is still listening to rumors out there, I will say again that there is absolutely no grand plan to exit our big markets.”
“We’ll be exiting a market that has been tough for us, and through these deals we will be able to realize significant value for the company – over and above what we could have generated from continued operations.” — Mary Berner
She continued, “If any of this news causes you concern, take my sister’s advice and #cutitout.”
For WABC, Berner confirmed that the station’s entire team will transfer with the iconic WABC brand to Red Apple “and continue to deliver great content to New York listeners and beyond.”
Closing is expected to occur in Q3. At that time, Red Apple will assume all programming and operations of WABC.