Originally created 09/06/00

Cumulus may sell stations



Cumulus Media Inc. confirmed Tuesday the company's cluster of Augusta radio stations might be sold to Clear Channel Communications Inc. in a deal involving station swaps and cash.

"The deal is not final yet," local General Manager Gary Pizzati said.

He did not disclose financial terms, referring to the deal only as "win win" for both companies. The deal could be completed as early as October or as late as next year, he said.

Neither Cumulus nor Clear Channel executives returned phone inquiries about the deal Tuesday. Cumulus filed confidential correspondence with the Security and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Rumors have swirled for about six months that Milwaukee, Wis.-based Cumulus might sell or swap stations with a broadcast company to help alleviate its heavy debt burden and shore a depressed stock price.

The company, however, denied the local stations were for sale.

Executive Vice President John Dickey wrote an e-mail last month stating the company was not selling stations to Las Vegas-based radio company Citadel Communications.

Trade publication Inside Radio reported Citadel had offered $20 million for seven Cumulus stations in the Augusta market. Inside Radio also said the company might be reluctant to give up its ninth-largest market.

Cumulus controls nine stations locally, and about half of the total local market revenue. Cumulus stations in the Augusta area are: WEKL-FM, WRXR-FM, WUUS-FM, WGUS-AM, WBBQ-FM, WBBQ-AM, WXKT-FM, WLOV-AM and WZNY-FM.

The company's full-time, local employment is about 80.

Founded in 1997, Cumulus acquired more than 300 stations in midsize cities. But the heavily leveraged company began having problems in March. Its stock price is lagging near a 52-week low of about $7.

Cumulus also has been accused of fraud in several pending lawsuits.

In a separate deal, Cumulus agreed in May to swap several stations with Clear Channel. It struck a deal valued at about $209 million to help Cumulus complete is previously announced transaction with Clear Channel.

Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, owns more than 500 radio stations and 24 television stations. In August, the company acquired promoter and facility operator, SFX Entertainment Inc.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.