Here’s What Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan Told His Employees


(By Ed Ryan) Jeff Smulyan has been one the most recognizable, well-liked, and accessible operators in the radio industry for decades. Up until 2019 Smulyan had been the longest running executive on our 40 Most Powerful People in Radio list, reaching as high as number 6 back in 2010 and 2011. He’s been on the cover of Radio Ink Magazine too many times to count.

Over the past several years, after owning stations in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Austin and elsewhere, Smulyan has been selling off his properties and investing in businesses outside of radio. He’s also writing a book about his life in the business, which, for sure will have a lot of great stories.

Emmis is based out of Indianapolis. Local residents pass by their radio stations every day when hustling around Monument Circle where they can peak in and see Emmis’ live and local talent performing their radio duties. Shortly before the announcement went public, Smulyan sent a note to his employees about the sale to Urban One. In the note, Smulyan admits there will probably be jobs lost. Here’s that note in its entirety.

“Today we announced an agreement to sell our Emmis Indianapolis radio stations and Network Indiana to Urban One. The sale will be effective once the transaction receives approval from the FCC. We anticipate that process will take several months. Until that time, our Indianapolis radio team will remain Emmis employees and we will continue to own and operate the stations.

“This news may come as a surprise given our track record in radio and commitment to the Indianapolis community. Urban One approached us and made us an offer we felt was worth exploring, and after much conversation – worth accepting. The sale provides Emmis additional financial resources to continue to explore new, high growth business opportunities, but also comes with all the emotions of letting go of something you love.

“Please know this is in no way a reflection of your value and your work. I know, and Urban One’s leadership knows, that we have the best radio cluster in Indiana, consistently delivering tremendous content and over delivering on expectations. That is precisely what made them interested in pursuing the deal. Urban One has deep experience in the market, significant resources, and a commitment to local radio.

“At the moment, we don’t have many of the answers you want, and the answers you deserve. During the FCC review process, Urban One plans to take the time to get to know the Emmis radio team while developing their plans for integrating local operations. As is the case with any integration of two local operations, there will be changes in people and processes. Emmis will handle these changes with the compassion our culture demands and is committed to work with Urban One on a successful transition.

“When Emmis launched our first station, WENS now HANK FM, in 1981, before most of you were born, I never could have envisioned the journey we would go on. There were massive highs, lows, and everything in between. Indianapolis is my hometown, and I’m so proud of what we’ve built together. We’ve become an invaluable contributor to the Indianapolis community, a leader of radio industry innovation and initiative, and a trusted resource for listeners and businesses. I am deeply grateful for your contribution to this journey.

Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti with Emmis Chairman/CEO Jeff Smulyan, the 2016 Radio Wayne winner for America’s Best Broadcaster

“Here is what I can tell you: Urban One recognizes the value of our people and our stations. You are truly the best in the business, and being a part of this team created a lifetime of memories and together, made a difference in the community we call home.

“As always, my door is open. Thanks. Jeff.”


  1. Urban One will take the best Emmis signals and put their preferred formats there. Emmis was a great owner of radio and their departure is a milestone sign that terrestrial radio has been in a decline and there is no soft-landing in sight. We are at the welcome line of another recession, and after Coronavirus these live-local operators need to bail while there are buyers.

  2. Smulyan, one of the best operators, just sold his stations to one of the worse operators. If I were an employee at this cluster, I’d be getting my resume out now.

  3. Just sad, why sell off what made you who you are. If you say you love radio than keep it and get rid of the other companies that you own. Be a true operator till the end of time. You say you love indy but yet your throwing it all away. Seen this happen to many times all-over the mighty $$. be a hoosier and take pride in what’s locally owned and operated keep it don’t sell.


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