The core of the company Jeff Smuylan has run has always revolved around radio. In some form or another, Emmis as a radio company has been around for four decades. And while he shows no signs of retiring, it’s clear Smulyan is steering his company away from the radio business.
After selling stations first Los Angeles then in St. Louis, Austin, and New York City, and closing the doors on NextRadio, Smulyan made it clear he wanted to be in businesses that grew faster than radio. For years Smulyan has said there’s no capital coming into radio and he strongly believed the radio industry needed to unite behind NextRadio if it was ever to have a chance to compete in a smartphone world.
On Thursday’s quarterly earnings call, Smulyan said, as of now, Emmis will continue to control its Indinapolis cluster of radio stations, Emmis headquarters in Indianapolis, WLIB in NYC (although they are in discussions to sell it), and ownership interest in WEPN-FM in New York, which is being leased to ESPN.
Following all the recent deal-making by Emmis, the company has a bank account brimming with $88 million in cash Smulyan is ready to invest. He says that what’s taken place over the past few years is the transformation of Emmis. “Make no mistake, we love radio, but we would also would like to tackle businesses that have a higher growth profile.” And that’s what Smulyan is on the hunt for now. He says he’s having discussions but nothing is imminent. You may recall, back in June, Emmis invested in Dave Beasing’s company Sound That Brands.
Smulyan went on to describe what he’s looking for. “We’re casting a wide net, looking for businesses with a history of growth that have scale. It will be a couple of businesses, several smaller businesses with $10-$25 million in cash flow. Businesses that are a little mature that we can make better. We hope to identify some by the end of this year. We have a chance to transform the company and I could not be happier.”