Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Bonneville International Category

Bonneville International on Wednesday said it has entered into an agreement to sell its three Chicago radio stations -- WTMX-FM (101.9), WDRV-FM (97.1) and WILV-FM (100.3) -- to Minneapolis-based Hubbard Broadcasting Co. Hubbard also is buying Bonneville stations in Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Cincinnati. Altogether Hubbard is acquiring 17 Bonneville stations for $505 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in May.

As part of the deal, Salt Lake City-based Bonneville's two top radio executives, CEO Bruce Reese and chief operating officer Drew Horowitz will join the radio management team at Hubbard, which currently operates just four radio stations in Minneapolis,in addition to 12 television stations in Minnesota, New York and New Mexico. Chicago-based Greg Solk, who had overseen programming for Bonneville's chain of radio stations, also will become the senior vice-president of programming for Hubbard's expanded roster of radio outlets.

Hubbard said it does not plan to make any changes in personnel or programming at any of the stations it is acquiring after the deal closes.

The deal gives Hubbard in one fell swoop three of Chicago's top performing radio stations. All three are regularly among the Chicago market's top 10 outlets in the key 25 to 54-year-old demo in the monthly Arbitron rating books. Hubbard also is getting the city's consistently top-ranked morning drive show with Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart on WTMX.

Sources say the price tag Hubbard is paying seems surprisingly low, given the quality of several of the Chicago stations Hubbard is acquiring. Bonneville, however, apparently liked the offer. One source called it a deal Bonneville couldn't refuse. Bonneville is a unit of Deseret Management Corp., a for-profit arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Effective at 1 p.m. today (Monday), Bonneville International adult contemporary WILV-FM (100.3) will get a new moniker -- Rewind 100.3.

The new tag will join those used for Bonneville's other two top-performing radio stations in the Chicago market: hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), known as "The Mix;" and classic hits WDRV-FM (97.1), known as "The Drive." Until three years ago, WILV had been known as "Love FM," but with the advent of Arbitron's portable people meter ratings technology, Bonneville opted to drop that moniker and simply focus on the 100.3 radio dial position to help identify the station in the public's mind.

But three years later, Bonneville management has decided it is time to re-introduce a moniker for WILV, and "Rewind 100.3" is a name that station execs believe will help listeners recognize the station as one with a heavily 1980's-focused playlist, including music from Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees.

Bonneville sources said the station is still weighing how much of a marketing push it will put behind the new WILV moniker, but no one expects WILV billboards to supplant any of those currently promoting the Mix's Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart morning drive show, which has been No. 1 in the market for some time. WILV-FM was ranked 14th in the market in the key 25 to 54 adult demo in the most recent April Arbitron book.

Bonneville International, which operates some of the best-managed radio stations in the country, has promoted two of its star managers. Paul Yates has been promoted to senior vice-president, finance. And Greg Solk has been upped to senior vice-president, programming. Solk's programming oversight has, over the years, expanded from Bonneville's music outlets to include work on the company's news/talk stations. Solk is based in Bonneville's Chicago office. Bonneville's Chicago stations include hot adult contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), classic hits WDRV-FM (97.1) and adult contemporary WILV-FM (100.3)



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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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