Mormon-owned company will change urban R&B format
Pointing to decreasing African American demographics, powerful Black owned media conglomerate Radio One, Inc. announced that it has sold Los Angeles’ leading urban radio station, the popular V100 to Bonneville International, a Salt Lake City, Utah broadcast company wholly owned by The Church of Latter-Day Saints (the LDS Church).
Radio One, Inc. entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement to sell KRBV-FM last Friday March 24 for a transaction price of $137.5 million.
“It’s an attractive transaction for Radio One, as it frees up capital and management resources which can be re-deployed to execute our long term strategy,” said Radio One’s CEO and President Alfred Liggins.
Radio One originally purchased the station from Clear Channel Communications in 1999 for a then reported record price exceeding $400 million, but as the economy has continued in dramatic decline it has affected not just the housing market but business as well. During the first four years under the Radio One umbrella the station enjoyed modest success as it battled with KPWR for the R&B/hip-hop crown.
The station rode on the heels of its heavily promoted and high profile morning star Steve Harvey, but ultimately never managed to win the ratings war against Big Boy and KPWR.
After a feud with Harvey ensued over the station’s hip hop content and his refusal to play questionable songs during his show, he left unceremoniously and was replaced by former NBA basketball star John Salley.
By May 2006, KKBT officially decided to change its format from Mainstream Urban outlet to a hybrid Urban Adult Contemporary format that would focused on the 25-49 age category.
Thus roughly 16 months ago, under the esteemed leadership of Radio One Chairperson Cathy Hughes, V100 changed it’s call letters to KRBV and hired local Los Angeles radio legend Cliff Winston to began the surge.
Syndicated talk show host Michael Baisden continued to emerge as a national star, the trendy Tom Joyner Morning Show was distant history; gone too were host Amanda Lewis and John Sally and under a new R&B format the station took a leap in the ratings and had become tops among urban stations in its category with a 1.3 rating over both KJLH FM where Harvey ultimately landed and long standing Stevie Wonder owned KDAY FM.
However, in the end there were too many stations in the category and just not enough African American listeners in the market place for the station to remain viable.
The official final airdate for the station is scheduled for April 11 and this week all of the 60 employees were notified of their fate and severance packages.
One thing that is for certain and that is the new format will not be urban or targeted to the African American populace according to Craig Haslam, Director of Communications for Bonneville International.
“We don’t even know yet what the format will be,” Haslam told the Sentinel this week. “There are three or four that we are thinking about but we will hold those close to the vest for right now.”
When asked if the station would continue to be an urban station he emphatically stated, “Most likely not.”
There was a subdued mood among the employees who were coming and going from their traditional lunch hours on Tuesday, but none were allowed to make any comment about the impeding change of ownership.
Vice President/General Manager Steve Candullo, who was brought to Los Angeles from New York by Radio One 16 months ago called it an unfortunate day, but in no way did the decision reflect the passion of the African American listeners and the relationships that were established with such community institutions such as the Sentinel which partnered with V100 on the annual Taste of Soul street scene concert.
“On a personal level and I can speak for a lot of people at the radio station, it is a very personal time for us who all emotionally vested in building V100, but this is what happens in the radio business and business in general where everything is for sale at a certain price,” Candullo said while sitting behind his desk in the V100 offices on Wilshire Blvd.
However, one of its own the outspoken and candid Baisden took difference to yet another Black station being sold to a White owned establishment during his show on Tuesday, but before his listeners could hear his comments he was silenced by music.
According to one published report, Bonneville prefers to have canned shows instead of local talent and is profit driven.
Former V100 program director Kevin Fleming said that it was unfortunate the station had to be sold.
“The people that lose are not only the people that have worked there, but also the people of Los Angeles,” Fleming said.
Officials from stations that stand to benefit both KJLH FM and KDAY had mixed reactions to the transition.
“I understand the sale and I think KJLH is poised to benefit from the exiting the market,” said KJLH general manager Karen Slade. “I don’t think there will be any adverse impact on the market because we are here to fill the gap.”
KDAY’s account executive Cliff Russell formally worked for the station.
“I had experiences at all levels at V100. Obviously, it’s going to be a loss to the community because the station had been such a tradition for Angelinos especially African Americans in Los Angeles over the last 20 years.”
Radio One had reported $376 million in loses during the last quarter and still owns 53 stations in 16 markets, including its vastly growing TV One empire.