Q101, Loop deal blows Randy Michaels back into radio business

Five things you need to know about the sale of Q101 and the Loop to Randy Michaels:


  • In a deal worth between $110 million and $130 million, Emmis Communications announced the sale Tuesday of WKQX-FM (101.1) and WLUP-FM (97.9) in Chicago and WRXP-FM (101.9) in New York to Merlin Media, an investment group headed by Randy Michaels (pictured right), the former Tribune Co. CEO who was forced to resign amid allegations of personal misconduct last fall. Just this week his exploits resurfaced in a new tell-all book about the bankrupt company.

  • Q101 is expected to drop its modern rock format and switch to all-news soon after Michaels’ group begins programming the stations in the next 45 days. The move will take aim at CBS Radio all-news WBBM-AM (780), currently the top-rated and top-billing station in the market. Before that happens, don’t be surprised if CBS starts simulcasting Newsradio 780 on WCFS-FM (105.9), its underperforming adult-contemporary station known as Fresh FM. It’s not the first time Chicago’s 101.1 FM has competed against Newsradio 780. From 1975 to 1977, the station then known as WNIS experimented with FM news as part of NBC’s News and Information Service.

  • Look for veteran media consultant Walter Sabo to run the radio operations for Michaels. Under prior ownership, Sabo previously oversaw Q101 as executive vice president of the NBC-owned FM stations. Serving as chairman of Michaels’ new advisory board is John Gehron, chief operating officer of AccuRadio and one of Chicago’s most respected broadcast executives. “I’m excited to be part of another important twist in the evolution of our industry,” Gehron said in a statement.

  • Unlike recent radio deals involving Chicago stations owned by Bonneville International and Citadel Broadcasting, Emmis Communications won’t be exiting the market completely. Under the new deal, the Indianapolis-based company will retain “a significant minority stake” in Michaels’ group. Emmis has been a player in Chicago since it acquired Q101 in 1988. “As a significant minority partner in Merlin Media, we’re delighted to remain engaged with these markets and stations in the exciting days ahead,” Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a statement.



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)