Matrix’s End: Chicago-area FMs Land With EMF, Alpha


In November 2013, a new radio broadcasting company was formed to serve as the licensee and operator of a pair of Class A FM stations that have long-served Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

For $5,527,500, Matrix Broadcasting Holdings LLC — led by Peter Handy and Edward Ferreri — snagged the FMs from a trust administered by MVP Capital Managing Director Elliot Evers on behalf of NextMedia Group.

The FMs had to be sold, as NextMedia agreed to sell all of its assets to Dean Goodman‘s Digity LLC; in Chicago the spins were necessary to meet local ownership limits set by the FCC.

Unfortunately, Matrix in March 2018 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. And, unlike Steel City Media, Cumulus Media or iHeartMedia, a positive emergence from debtor-in-possession status that saw the retention of its properties couldn’t be had.

As such, Matrix, under Handy’s direction from Addison, Tex., is selling the FMs to the company that ended up buying Digity — Alpha Media.

It makes sense: Alpha Media operates both WFXF and WZSR via a Shared Services Agreement, inherited from Digity, which had it in place when the stations exited the trust and sold to Matrix.

But, there are two other players in the mix, including the second-largest licensee of radio stations in the U.S.

The reason for the sale is clear: Matrix tells the FCC in a Form 314 filing made Feb. 11 that it is connection with a proposed settlement of the claims in its bankruptcy case.

As such, Matrix on Feb. 7 signed off on a deal to sell Hot AC WZSR-FM “Star 105.5” in Woodstock, Ill., and Rock WFXF-FM 103.9 “The Fox” in Dundee, Ill., known as the current home of longtime Chicago morning host Eddie Volkman.

Alpha is acquiring WZSR and WFXF for a total purchase price of $4,669,011.

Goodman signed off on the deal, indicating that he and the former Digity LLC are owned funds tied to Matrix’s acquisition of WZSR and WFXF from the Evers-administered trust.

Consider that Part One of this three-part deal.

When Digity merged with NextRadio, it was limited to five FMs in the Chicago market. So, how can Alpha have seven? It can’t.

That’s why Mr. Volkman will soon be exiting The Fox: Alpha is immediately spinning WFXF, and has decided to sell another one of its Chicago-area FMs — a Class A to the far southwest of the Loop.

The Fox’s new owner will be Educational Media Foundation, the operator of the noncomm KLOVE and Air1 Contemporary Christian Music networks.

EMF will pay Alpha Media $900,000 for WFXF.

The addition of WFXF gives EMF added firepower in the Chicago DMA. The KLOVE network can be found on Class B WCKL-FM 97.9 in Chicago, which has a signal that fades once one reaches Elgin, Crystal Lake, and the communities best-reached by WFXF.

KLOVE has reached the northwestern suburbs via Class A WOKL-FM 89.1 in Round Lake Beach, Ill., and the far west via Class B WCLR-FM 92.5 in Dekalb, Ill.

Meanwhile, Worship Music-focused Air1 is on Class A WJKL-FM 94.3 in Glendale Heights, Ill., serving Chicago’s immediate north and west; and tiny Class A WAIW-FM 88.1 in Wheaton, Ill.

As such, WFXF could serve as a home for Air1.

Now, Part Three of this transaction: For $300,000, WRXQ-FM 100.7 in Coal City, Ill., serving an area stretching south from Joliet, is being sold from Alpha to Walnut Radio Illinois, an entity with roots in Omaha and managed by Steven Seline.

A $15,000 deposit has been made by Walnut to Alpha.

Serving as Alpha’s legal counsel in this deal is Kathleen Kirby of Wiley Rein LLP.

Following the consummation of these transactions, Alpha will own the following five FM and three FM stations in the Chicago metropolitan area, as defined by BIA:

WCCQ-FM in Crest Hill, IL
WERV-FM in Aurora, IL 
WJOL-AM in Joliet, IL
WKRS-AM in Waukegan, IL
WLIP-AM in Kenosha, WI
WSSR-FM in Joliet, IL
WXLC-FM in Waukegan, IL
WZSR-FM in Woodstock, IL

Matrix’s Handy holds attributable interest in five radio stations in the Sebring, Fla., area; they are not involved in this Chicago-area transaction.