Changing the tune
In 2016, Emmis Communications Corp. sold Austin-based Texas Monthly for $25 million. Now, the Indianapolis company is severing its ties to Austin altogether with the $39.3 million sale of its majority stake in a cluster of local radio stations.
The buyer of the eight radio stations is Norfolk, Virginia-based Sinclair Telecable Inc. The company, led by Bob and David Sinclair, has been Emmis’ minority partner in the Austin radio properties since Emmis bought the majority stake in 2003. Bob Sinclair lives in Austin.
Pending regulatory approvals, the sale is expected to be completed later this year.
The Austin radio cluster comprises six full-power stations and two low-power FM translators: KLBJ-AM, KLBJ-FM, Bob FM, La Zeta, Star 93.3, 101X, Austin City Limits Radio, and Latino 102.7. The radio group’s roots date back to the 1940s, when Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson — who later would move into the White House — began building their radio empire.
Sinclair Telecable is not affiliated with Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of KEYE, Austin’s CBS TV station. Sinclair Telecable has owned radio stations in Austin since 1995. In Austin, the radio group will be rebranded as Waterloo Media, perhaps to avoid confusion with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“It’s been a fabulous run in Austin, operating in one of America’s best radio markets with such a special team and winning culture,” Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan says in a June 10 release. “I can’t say enough great things about the performance of our incredible team in Austin.”
“I’m thrilled to say we didn’t need to look far to find a committed, well-known buyer who feels the same way about the Austin team,” Smulyan adds. “The Sinclairs have been great partners and will undoubtedly take the operation to new heights.”
Back in 2003, Emmis paid about $105 million for its 50.1 percent stake in the Austin radio cluster. In that deal, Austin-based LBJ Broadcasting Co. LP sold its majority interest, and Sinclair Telecable wound up with a 49.9 percent stake. Sinclair Telecable had run the stations in partnership with LBJ Broadcasting.
Before the Emmis acquisition, LBJ Broadcasting had owned and operated radio stations in Austin for 60 years. The Johnsons purchased their first Austin radio station in 1943 for $17,500.