Jacor Communications Inc. will end up with three Baltimore radio stations as part of a $620 million merger deal approved by federal regulators yesterday, giving the Covington, Ky., company its first foothold in the Baltimore market.
Jacor will assume control of Baltimore's WOCT-104.3 FM and WCAO-600 AM. In exchange, Jacor will relinquish stations in Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, to CBS Radio.
The trade is part of an agreement to sell or swap eight of its stations to settle antitrust concerns raised by its acquisition of Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Communication Inc.
Jacor also is acquiring WPOC-93.1 FM, owned by Nationwide, in the deal first announced last fall.
"It was a fix-it-first type of thing," said Justice Department spokeswoman Jennifer Rose. "Once they shed here and picked up there, the acquisition was more viable from the government's standpoint."
The three stations will now come under one umbrella, said Jacor's Baltimore market manager, Jim Dolan, formerly general manager of WPOC, a country station since 1974.
WPOC has the second-highest ratings in Baltimore, behind WERQ-92.3, a station with an urban contemporary format.
Jacor said previously that WPOC would undergo a substantial overhaul, including the departure of longtime on-air personalities Ted Patterson, Jim Miller, and Tony Girard.
"We are still optimistic, though, and as far as format is concerned, everything will pretty much remain the same," Dolan said.
"This deal will create more leverage in this marketplace. In an era of increasing consolidation, if you're going to continue to play the game you need that leverage."
WOCT-FM, which plays classics of the 1970s and 1980s, and WCAO-AM, a gospel music station, will maintain their formats, Dolan said.
"This is a tremendous upside for us," said David H. Crowl, president of Jacor's radio division. "Each station has established itself as a popular presence in Baltimore."
With the acquisition of Nationwide, Jacor will own and operate 197 radio stations in 55 U.S. markets. It posted 1997 revenue of $600 million.
Harry J. DeMott, an analyst who covers Jacor for Credit Suisse First Boston in New York, said the station swaps, coupled with consolidation, will continue.
"It all sounds sort of confusing, but for tax considerations it's more cost-effective to swap instead of buy or sell," he said.
"In purchasing the radio assets of Nationwide, Jacor needed to divest themselves of stations in markets where their presence might have been too overwhelming to antitrust regulators."
Pub Date: 8/11/98