Update 9:40am: It’s official. Randy Michaels and GTCR, a Chicago investment firm have acquired 101.9 WRXP New York and 97.9 WLUP and 101.1 WKQX Chicago from Emmis Communications under the name Merlin Media while Emmis will retain a minority share of the stations.
They will take over operations of the stations via LMA within the next 45 days. As we explain below, expect a flip from Modern Rock to News/Talk at WKQX and WRXP when all is said and done.
Update 7:00pm: A few names have been announced for the new group. John Gehron, most recently COO of AccuRadio.com has been named Chairman/Advisory Board and will oversee the two Chicago stations. Gehron previously was a Regional VP and Market Manager for Clear Channel under Michaels. Gehron tells RAIN that he will continue work with Accuradio and his personal consultancy.
Liz Aiello joins the company as VP/New York. She has been Senior VP of Broadcasting for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia overseeing the Martha Stewart Living channel on SiriusXM. She also worked for Sirius for Howard Stern’s channels.
Robert Feder, who first broke the story of the sale this morning, adds that consultant Walter Sabo will be involved with the new group. Sabo is one of the originators of the FM Talk format with the development of New Jersey 101.5 in the early 90’s.
Original Report 9:04am: As first reported by TimeOut Chicago’s Robert Feder this morning, an all hands staff meeting is in place at Emmis Communication’s Chicago cluster where it is expected to be announced that Michaels will be acquiring one or both of Classic Rock “97.9 The Loop” WLUP and Modern Rock “Q101.1” WKQX.
When the move is announced expect a flip to News/Talk to follow most likely at Q101. Michaels has had the domain registrations in place since last December, which also hint at possible New York and Los Angeles components to this deal. FMNews1011.com (for WKQX), FMNews939.com (For Emmis’ KXOS Los Angeles currently leased to Grupo Radio Centro?), and the typo filled FMNNews1019.com (for WRXP New York?) were registered to Michaels’ Radioactive LLC on December 22, 2010 with Michaels himself listed as the Administrative Contact.
Sounds like there’s still going to be a lot more to this story as the day progresses.