Florida-based radio operator Russ Oasis has agreed to sell Indianapolis station WKLU-FM 101.9 for $6.3 million to Rocklin, Calif.-based not-for-profit Educational Media Foundation, one of the country's biggest radio station operators.
The deal, signed last Friday, is expected to close within 90 days of regulatory approvals, said Michael Bergner, whose Florida-based firm, Bergner and Co., brokered the sale.
EMF Broadcasting, which airs Christian music and programming on more than 245 stations in 46 states, will pay $4.75 million for the station, plus $1.55 million for the studio at 82nd Street and Knue Road. EMF already has 16 stations in Indiana, including WIKL-FM 90.5 in Greencastle, which broadcasts in Indianapolis.
Officials from EMF did not return a phone call seeking comment about the sale.
Oasis has no plans to sell any of his other Indiana stations, which are all based in Fort Wayne, according to Bergner.
"The economy is tough, and it's difficult to make it as a stand-alone station," Bergner said. "He got the proverbial offer he couldn't refuse."
EMF Broadcasting operates all of its stations under the Christian contemporary "K-Love" or "Air 1" formats, so a format change is almost certain.
WKLU will continue with its current oldies format until the sale closes, WKLU General Manager Bart Johnson said this morning.
Johnson said he and his staff of about 20 full-time employees have not yet had the chance to talk to the new owners about employment opportunities.
"Generally, the staff of any radio station is the last to know about a potential sale," Johnson said. "Right now, things are a bit up in the air."
Sales and support staffers would have the best chance of retaining a job with a new owner, Johnson added.
Oasis, a Miami-based radio entrepreneur, bought WKLU in October 2005 for $6.2 million from independent radio operator and disc jockey Bruce Quinn, also known as Bruce the Radio Pirate when on the air. After the sale, the station moved from Brownsburg to Indianapolis, nearly doubling its transmitter's power to 6,000 watts.
Oasis initially stuck with the station's classic-rock format in an attempt to take on local powerhouse WFBQ-FM 94.7. WKLU vaulted all the way to No. 4 in the local radio market in the 25-to-54 age demographic in 2006, but slipped to No. 12 in 2007.
In 2008, WKLU changed to an oldies format, playing hits from the 1960s and 1970s, and hired veteran disc jockey Jeff Pigeon as its morning host. Hiring Pigeon, who was a fixture on Indianapolis station WIBC-AM 1070 for 20 years, was a last-ditch effort by Oasis to bolster the station's ratings and revenue during a flagging economy. In the summer of 2008, WKLU was holding steady as the Indianapolis market's No. 7-rated radio station with audiences ages 12 and up.
Despite its ratings, WKLU could not crack the ranks of the top 10 revenue-generating stations in the Indianapolis market, according to Virginia-based BIA Financial Network.