For those following closely the writing on the wall for Greater Media was after their drastic layoffs a couple weeks ago along with the format change of “Detroit Sports 105.1” WMGC to the more cost-effective Classic Hip-Hop.
Still while rumors were simmering for a few weeks prior to that about something potentially happening in Charlotte, nobody can say they saw Greater Media’s complete exit coming in one fell swoop ahead of time. And Beasley was the company that mostly exited its two largest markets a few years ago and now here they are returning to Philadelphia and entering Boston and Detroit’s FM band in a major way.
CFO/Interim CEO Caroline Beasley is clearly seeking to lay her mark on the family-run company founded by her father George in 1961. But what could be next for Beasley as they become a bigger player in larger markets? Looking on a market by market basis, its doubtful much will change in Boston and Philadelphia. Beasley did make some significant restructuring when they acquired CBS’ Charlotte and Tampa operations so talent changes are possible. Does WMMR’s Pierre Robert, WMGK’s John DiBella or WROR’s Loren & Wally see this as an opportune time to come to a retirement settlement of their contracts?
Detroit holds an interesting question. In most of their non-brokered markets, Beasley seeks to get as close to the market cap as possible to maximize cost efficiencies. Will they be content with just the three FM’s there or look to expand or swap out of the market? Would there somehow be a match with Cumulus who has one AM and two FMs in Detroit? Or perhaps Radio-One, which we’ll get back to in a moment.
The suburban New Jersey stations don’t add much to Beasley’s structure. Most of Connoisseur Media’s recent growth has been in the markets circling around New York City with stations in Allentown PA, Fairfield County, Hartford, and New Haven CT, Trenton NJ, and Long Island NY. Even Beasley’s stand-alone WJBR Wilmington DE could be a potential fit for them and allow Beasley to regain some of the money it laid out for Greater Media. We’ve also sent inquiries about the status of Greater Media’s publishing arm that operates weekly newspapers in Central New Jersey, but have yet to receive a response whether they are included in the deal.
Finally there is Charlotte. With a seven station cluster it acquired from CBS and the three stations owned by Greater Media there will need to be some spin-offs. GM’s rimshot 99.3 WBT-FM Chester SC would make the most sense to go if it came down to just cutting the dead weight, but the Department of Justice will also need to approve the deal and will look at revenue concentration that could come from integrating 1110 WBT and 107.9 WLNK with some of Beasley’s existing stations. Would a Radio-One even be allowed to acquire Urban “Power 98” WPEG and Urban AC “V101.9” WBAV to combine with three of their signally challenged FM’s? iHeartMedia is the other big operator in the market and they are maxed out as well leaving very little in the way of potential consolidators to make a move into the market and leaving the likes of Educational Media Foundation or Radio Training Network to attempt to gain another full-market signal in Charlotte.
We’ve heard some scuttlebutt about an aforementioned Radio-One/Beasley swap with WBAV/WPEG and perhaps a very African American market like Augusta GA being swapped for Radio-One’s underperforming Cincinnati cluster and/or others. That would be the cleanest way for Beasley to resolve the overlap in Charlotte and enter an additional larger market. Regardless the deals aren’t over for Beasley now.
The other big question is what happens to all of Greater Media’s senior management. There has been no public statement in the nearly 24 hours since the deal was announced from their end despite GM stockholders taking a 19% share in the bigger Beasley. No word on whether any of their corporate employees will be joining Beasley upon the completion of the deal.