The former flagship radio stations of the now-defunct Journal Communications, which ended up in the hands of The E.W. Scripps Co. following its April 2015 merger, are being sold by Scripps for $16 million to a local owner with a familiar last name to radio industry executives and observers.
Craig Karmazin is the new owner of WKTI-FM and WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee.
A Form 314 filing with the FCC is expected to take place Monday.
Karmazin is the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based Good Karma Brands, described as a sports marketing company with expertise in sports and event marketing.
But, make no mistake, Good Karma is a radio operator, and its owner has audio communication in his blood: Craig Karmazin is the son of Mel Karmazin, co-founder of Infinity Broadcasting and a former CEO of Sirius Radio. Good Karma’s stations have been comprised, until now, of six ESPN Radio affiliates, including Class B WAUK-AM 540 in Milwaukee and Class A WTLX-FM 100.5 in Madison.
ESPN Radio affiliates also include stations in Class B WKNR-AM 850 in Cleveland and Class B WEFL-AM 760 in West Palm Beach
Other Wisconsin stations owned by Good Karma include Class B News/Talker WBEV-AM 1430 and Class A Country WXRO-FM 95.3 in Beaver Dam, Wisc., to the northwest of Milwaukee.
Now, Good Karma is getting some of the strongest signals in the Upper Midwest.
WTMJ-AM 620 is a Class B blowtorch operating from 4 daytime towers with 50kw and 6 nighttime towers with 10kw. This gives the AM signal reach from Marquette, Mich., through Chicago, and south to the Champaign-Urbana, Ill., area. Across Lake Michigan, WTMJ can be heard in much of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
Of course, in today’s world an FM signal is imperative, and WTMJ has one — at 103.3 MHz by way of FM translator W277CV. Good Karma’s getting that northeast Milwaukee stick, too.
Then, there is Class B Country WKTI-FM 94.5, which from 1974 until November 2008 shifted between mainstream Top 40 and Hot AC until a rebranding and format shift under Journal/Milwaukee executive Steve Wexler. Memorial Day Weekend 2015 saw the embrace of a Country format and the return of the WKTI call letters after seven years as WLWK-FM “94.5 The Lake.”
The change to Country was one of the first moves for Scripps, which closed on its merger with Journal on April 1, 2015.
The move was intended to capture audience from iHeartRadio’s WMIL-FM 106.1, the heritage Country station in the market. In the last four Nielsen Audio monthly surveys, WKTI has trailed WMIL among adults 6+ with PPMs and exposure to radio in Milwaukee. The lack of growth is seen despite the placement of 19-year WMIL veteran morning co-host Karen Dalessandro in afternoons at “KTI Country.”
However, the last four months have been filled with uncertainty not just for WTMJ and WKTI but for Scripps employees across most of its markets. On January 25, Scripps revealed that its struggling radio division was to be scrapped, and all 34 of its stations were going on the block.
These stations also include:
- KJOT-FM, KQXR-FM, KRVB-FM & KTHI-FM in Boise, Idaho
- WCYQ-FM, WKHT-FM, WNOX-FM & WWST-FM in Knoxville, Tenn.
- KEZO-FM, KKCD-FM, KQCH-FM, KSRZ-FM & KXSP-AM in Omaha
- KRVI-FM, KSPW-FM, KTTS-FM and KSGF-AM & FM in Springfield, Mo.
- KFFN-AM, KMXZ-FM, KQTH-FM & KTGV-FM in Tucson
- KFAQ-AM, KBEZ-FM, KHTT-FM, KVOO-FM & KXBL-FM in Tulsa
- KFTI-AM, KFXJ-FM, KYQQ-FM, KFDI-FM & KICT-FM in Wichita
For those at the five-station Tulsa cluster, there’s a bit more clarity as to what the future will bring. In late June, Scripps agreed to sell the station to local media operator Griffin Communications for $12.5 million.
Kalil & Co. was the broker in this deal, and is also the broker in the Milwaukee transaction.
RBR+TVBR has confirmed that the sale of the four-station Boise, Idaho and four-station Tucson clusters is nearing its finalization, with a major West Coast media company the acquiring party.
In a separately issued release, Scripps President/CEO Adam Symson said, “At Scripps, we are on track for the sale of our entire radio station group as a component of our enterprise-wide strategy to divest of non-core assets and focus on improving our near-term operating performance while fostering the growth ahead.”
The Milwaukee transaction, once filed with the FCC, is expected to close in Q4.
“We’re thrilled to welcome WTMJ and WKTI to the GKB family,” Karmazin said. “The heritage, prestige, and team at the stations, in addition to their incredible sports partnerships, fit our commitment to provide best-in-class opportunities for our teammates, content for our fans, and solutions for our marketing partners.”
Symson said, “Good Karma Brands’ focus on Milwaukee makes the company an ideal home for these important local radio stations. The company’s expertise in connecting audiences and advertisers, particularly with sports marketing, means these stations will be well positioned for the future.”
Good Karma Brands also houses an events division that produces the Wisconsin Sports Awards, the Tundra Trio hospitality houses in Green Bay, and the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, an NCAA Division I Football event.