In 1996 Radio Ink launched the first 40 Most Powerful People in Radio list. Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan has been on that list every year since (he’s the only person to accomplish that). Smulyan reached as high as number #6 (2000 and 2001). In 2016 he was ranked 7th. Our 2019 list will be released on July 22.
It shouldn’t be much longer before we know exactly what Jeff Smulyan’s next move will be. Smulyan has made it clear he wants to be in businesses or an industry that grows faster than radio. On Tuesday Emmis announced it was exiting the Austin market, selling its cluster of six stations to Sinclair Telecable for $39 million.
For years Emmis has been selling off assets to reduce debt. Magazines the company owned were jettisoned, NextRadio was shut down and clusters of radio stations have been sold off. Emmis sold its Terre Haute stations in late 2016 for $5.2 million. Power 106 in Los Angeles was sold to the Meruelo Group for $86.75 million in May of 2017. And St. Louis was sold last year, with two FM’s going to Hubbard and two FM’s to Entercom.
With Austin coming off the board for Emmis, that would leave the company in only two markets: New York City (three stations) and Indianapolis (five stations).
In 2015, according to BIA, Emmis’ revenue was approximately $166 million. In 2016 that number dropped to $136 million. In 2017 it was $114.6 million. With Austin out of the revenue mix for Emmis it’s estimated revenue for 2018 would come in around $82 million, according to BIA.
Regarding the Austin sale, Emmis and Sinclair have been partners since Emmis purchased its controlling interest in July 2003. Sinclair Telecable is not affiliated with Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair Telecable is headed by Bob and David Sinclair, who have owned radio stations in Austin since 1995. The company also owns and operates 7 FM, 2 AM, and 2 FM translators in Norfolk, Virginia and in the Sonoma County California wine country.
Emmis’ Austin cluster will be rebranded as Waterloo Media.
Regarding the deal Smulyan said it’s been a fabulous run in Austin, operating in one of America’s best radio markets with a special team and winning culture. “I can’t say enough great things about the performance of our incredible team in Austin. Our focus at Emmis now will be on transitioning to new areas of growth. I’m thrilled to say we didn’t need to look far to find a committed, well-known buyer who feels the same way about the Austin team. The Sinclairs have been great partners and will undoubtedly take the operation to new heights.”