Sun Broadcasting’s acquisition of 98.5 WLVO Fort Myers FL has been held up by Petitions To Deny by the unlikely pairing of competitors Beasley Media and Renda Broadcasting.
Beasley and Renda, who both operate clusters of their own in the Fort Myers market, argue that Sun’s purchase of WLVO does not comply with the current ownership limits because Sun has de facto control of other stations in the market. Sun currently owns 2 AMs, 3 FMs and a television station in the Fort Myers market but the petitioners argue that the owners of Sun also have control of the 2 AMs, 2 FMs and television station owned by Fort Myers Broadcasting Company which would put them well over the ownership caps even before the acquisition of WLVO.
The argument goes on to depict how the operations are united. Both groups operate out of the same “Broadcast Center” on 2824 Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers with studios, production space, equipment and personnel shared by both companies. They show documentation that lists Sun Broadcasting co-owner Jim Schwartzel as manager of the properties owned by both stations including news stories and domain registrations and as trustee for both his father’s Joseph C. Schwartzel Irrevocable Family Trust of 2011 that owns all of Sun’s shares and the McBride Family Trust that owns Fort Myers Broadcasting. The original petition also includes testimony from Jeff Zito Program Director of Beasley’s “96 K-Rock” WRXK who previously worked for Sun.
Sun later followed with an opposition that stated that Joseph Schwartzel and not is son Jim was GM of FMBC and that Sun rents space in the Broadcast Center from FMBC and purchases engineering, IT, master control and administrative services. Sun also stated that both companies do share part-time or hourly employees but that they are paid separately.
A final reply by Beasley and Renda was made in late October claiming that Sun’s opposition raised more questions than it answered as James Schwartzel was fully aware of the nuances of how FMBC operates compared to Sun. The reply goes over how following the original petition, the domains for FMBC’s stations were in James Schwartzel’s name but following the opposition the “error” was corrected. They also point out how Schwartzel admitted that for at least 14 months he did hold the position of Director of Sales for FMBC and if his father was GM of that company while being majority stakeholder of Sun it still gave them both attributable control of both companies. Beasley and Renda ask the FCC to hold a hearing on the operations of both companies to determine if the operations of Fort Myers Broadcasting Company and Sun Broadcasting is within the agency’s rules.
Original Report 8/13/15: On the heels of acquiring 88.7 WDLV (formerly WNPS) Fort Myers as part of its purchase of Classical South Florida, Educational Media Foundation is selling its existing “K-Love” station in the market to Sun Broadcasting.
98.5 WLVO San Carlos Park will go to Sun for $3.04 million. That alone will result in an $800,000 profit for EMF, which had acquired then WDEO-FM in September 2014 for $2.2 million. WLVO will become Sun’s sixth radio station in the market joining Conservative Talk “Fox News 92.5” WFSX-FM, Acitve Rock “93X” 93.7 WXNX, Classic Rock “94.5 The Arrow” WARO and Sports “The Fan” 1240 WFWN/1270 WNOG. Hadden & Associates acted as the exclusive broker for both the buyer and seller on this transaction.