Entercom trades radio stations
January 19, 2007
By Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Entercom trades radio stations
KIRO returns to Bonneville fold
Friday, January 19, 2007
By BILL VIRGIN
Entercom Communications Corp. said it plans to swap three of its Seattle radio stations -- one of them its local flagship, news-talk KIRO-AM (710) -- to Bonneville International Corp. for three stations in San Francisco.
Also in the deal are conservative talk station KTTH-AM (770) and oldies-format KBSG-FM (97.3), as well as four Entercom stations in Cincinnati. Bonneville also will pay Entercom $1 million in cash.
The deal represents something of a homecoming for Salt Lake City-based Bonneville, which owned KIRO-AM and a predecessor to KTTH until 1997, when it sold those two and an FM station to Entercom. It also owned KIRO/7, which it sold in 1995.
"This allows us to go back to a market we did very well in," said Craig Haslam, Bonneville's director of corporate communications.
In a statement, Entercom President David Field called the deal "bittersweet," but said the opportunity to move into the nation's fourth-largest radio market, and pick up a perennial leader in that market, "was incredibly compelling."
Both Bonneville's departure from and return to Seattle were a bit mystifying, said Robert Unmacht, a former owner of radio stations in the Northwest and now an industry consultant. Bonneville no longer has the Houston station it picked up when it did the first deal with Entercom. Although the San Francisco stations are "incredibly profitable," Unmacht said, KIRO has high ad billings but "is not particularly making money."
Still, Unmacht added, the deal is likely to work out well for KIRO. "Bonneville is a very good radio operator who likes to operate radio," he said. "Entercom is a fair operator that likes to make a profit. Bonneville was a very good operator in Seattle with KIRO and Channel 7."
The deal also got the endorsement of those who have worked for both owners. "I think they're a fantastic company," said Dave Ross, who hosts a morning talk show on KIRO and who worked for Bonneville the first time. "I foresee no problems."
Haslam said no changes are planned for the stations. "The news-talk format is something we do very well," he said. Bonneville also has news-talk stations in Salt Lake, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
KIRO, which shifted from music to full-time news and talk in the 1970s, was for years a ratings leader in Seattle; that position has slipped recently with the loss of Seattle Mariner broadcasts to rival KOMO-AM, owned by Fisher Communications. KIRO still carries Seattle Seahawk games. KTTH, meanwhile, emerged as a rival to Fisher's KVI-AM by landing the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh show as an anchor to its schedule.
Until this transaction, Entercom had been the largest owner of radio stations in the Seattle market, with seven (it had eight, the maximum allowed under current regulations until selling an AM station several years ago).
As for the four FM stations Entercom still has in the market -- KMTT-FM (103.7), KISW-FM (99.9), KKWF-FM (100.7) and KNDD-FM (107.7) -- "we're definitely going to keep them," said Jerry McKenna, Entercom vice president and Seattle market manager. "We've got four solid brands here."
Haslam said Bonneville would be interested in adding stations "when it's economically feasible," adding that there are no discussions about acquiring more in Seattle.
Entercom could turn operation of the stations over to Bonneville under a local market agreement in the first quarter, with the deal to close later this year after FCC approval.
KIRO, KTTH and KBSG operate out of a building on Eastlake Avenue East and have about 150 full- and part-time employees, McKenna said. The remaining four FM stations are located in one of the Metropolitan Park office towers.
Bonneville is operated by Deseret Management Corp., the holding company for the for-profit businesses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
KIRO-AM, KTTH-AM, KBSF-FM and four Entercom stations
Three Bonneville stations
in San Francisco
and $1 million.
P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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