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Posted by Feder Reader on January 19, 2011 at 13:44:47:

Bonneville blockbuster: Hubbard buys top stations for $505 million
January 19th, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

Bonneville International Corp., the blue-chip broadcasting company that owns three of Chicago’s all-around best radio stations, announced today that it’s selling its properties here and in three other cities in a blockbuster deal worth $505 million.

A total of 17 Bonneville outlets in Chicago, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Cincinnati will be acquired by Hubbard Broadcasting, a family-owned media company based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Hubbard owns multiple radio and television broadcast stations, as well as satellite and cable networks.

The Chicago stations are hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), classic rock WDRV-FM (97.1) and its simulcast outlet WWDV-FM (96.9), and adult contemporary WILV-FM (100.3). To listeners, they’re known as the Mix, the Drive and Rewind, respectively. The Mix and the Drive consistently rank at the top of the ratings among listeners between the ages of 25 and 54 — the “money demo” most attractive to advertisers.

Bonneville International is wholly owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. After the sale, Bonneville will continue to own stations Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and Salt Lake City.

Hubbard will retain Bonneville’s key executives, including Bruce Reese (pictured left), president and CEO, Drew Horowitz, chief operating officer, and Greg Solk, senior vice president of programming. Horowitz and Solk will continue to be based in Chicago.

“There’s not a better buyer that I could conceive of for Bonneville,” Reese told me moments after the deal was announced. “I’ve been fortunate to work for a fabulous owner for 26 years, and I’m now going to work for somebody else who I think is just as good. And I wouldn’t say that lightly about anybody. This is a family that’s been in the business since 1923. Culturally, it’s a fabulous fit. They care about the product and they care about the communities they work in. We’re just very excited about this. There’s not a better buyer that I could conceive of for Bonneville.”

Reese said he does not expect the ownership change to be discernible to listeners or advertisers. “We’ve been really good to both of those groups in all of our markets, and I think there’ll be a continuation of the same. We hope we’ve thought about those people first all the time, and we know we can always get better. But I think you’ll see a continuation of the same approach.”

Pending FCC approval, the transition should be completed by “late April or early May,” Reese said. “We can’t think of what any problems would be, but you never know when you’re dealing with the bureaucracy.”

At a time when other broadcast groups have been struggling to overcome crushing debts and drastic cutbacks, Bonneville has remained the gold standard of the industry under Reese. In Chicago, for instance, it continues to provide live local programming around the clock, promote its stations extensively, and lead the industry in community service initiatives.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Hubbard Broadcasting,” Ginny Morris, who will become chair of newly created Hubbard Radio, said in a statement. “We have long admired the good work, reputation and leadership of Bonneville International and its management team and feel honored to welcome these great stations into the Hubbard family of companies. With the proliferation of media in this Internet age, local and free over the air radio remains a mainstay in the lives of virtually all Americans. This combination of radio assets and brands represents the best of the best in the industry. Hubbard Radio will continue to maintain the investment and commitment to excellence and community service that have built and sustained these brands.”

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