WBT-AM sold to Beasley

WBT-AM is a nighttime clear channel 50 kW station on 1110 kHz based in Charlotte and that has a directional signal that aims up the I-85 corridor, but because of low ground conductivity (and being at a higher frequency) has nowhere near the range of a WBZ or KDKA. Even so, back in the days of long haul trucking it was listened to by truck drivers, many of whom were based in North Carolina. Yeehaw!

Back in the time I lived here in the 1970s, the radio and TV station were owned by Jefferson Pilot Broadcasting, an insurance company based in Greensboro. When Lincoln Financial took over Jefferson Pilot insurance, they had no interest in being in the radio business. They dumped WBT-AM and WLNK-FM on Greater Media right away, an owner centered in Boston. Not surprisingly, the station lost its local focus and Southern heritage.

WBTV-TV was sold off to Raycom in Alabama, so the synergy of owning both the TV and radio stations vanished. WBT is a mere shell of its former self, although it is the only listenable AM station left in the city. Now the station carries Coast to Coast AM overnight, Rush Limbaugh, Dave Ramsey and John Batchelor. It still does 11 hours a day of live local programming during the day, but the hosts generally talk about national issues, since most of the people living in Charlotte don’t live in North Carolina.

Beasley Broadcasting is a “frugal” broadcaster who started in North Carolina and is based in Florida. About a year ago, George Beasley did a station swap with CBS Radio and CBS gave him their cluster of 5 stations. Beasley immediately pulled the studios out of the main plaza downtown on the square, fired most of the staff, and moved operations to a low rent warehouse district. Ratings plummeted.

So Greater Media is selling WBT-AM to Beasley. There was a rumor a couple weeks ago. WBT currently has an FM simulcast in South Carolina and probably will be eligible for an FM translator. I would not be shocked if the station is turned into an urban or Spanish music station. The transmitter is also sitting on a very attractive piece of land. I don’t know if the land is being sold.

WBT Tower site

WBT Tower site

The land is relatively close to the transmodal facility built at the airport. It would be more useful as a distribution center or an office park than as a residential development as the neighborhood is industrial and declining and gets a lot of plane noise from the airport.

Its value as an AM station has come and gone. Time will tell.

In the three years since I moved back, I probably have listened to the station for 5 hours, so I don’t much care other than another piece of the past is slipping away…

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4 Responses to WBT-AM sold to Beasley

  1. Fred Stiening says:

    Oh my, it is much bigger. Beasley is buying all of Greater Media for $240 million. Beasley is publicly traded. I remember putting in a buy order once, but never bought the stock. I currently own no radio stocks

  2. briand75 says:

    Interesting. If Beasley is a cheap so-and-so, how does he continue in business? Do his low rent stations generate any revenue? I suppose I can look at the SEC and find out. How these low-rent owners survive stumps me.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      Start with my profile from 2009

      http://streamingradioguide.com/blogradio/?page_id=1390

      The simplistic answer is he avoided getting in to the bidding war after the 1996 telecom reform act and didn’t load up on as much debt. George Beasley is having health problems and his family hold the key jobs in the company. One of the more clever things he did was to sell the towers out of the publicly traded corporation into a company he owns. BBGI “loaned” him the money (which of course went right back to BBGI) with accompanying tower leases whose lease exceeded the amount of interest he was paying. With the towers now owned outside of the public Corp, any addition revenue from adding cell phone antennas, etc and appreciation of the value of the land would be owned by the family. This has the two class structure that allows voting control with only a small share of actual ownership

      The deal today is being funded by BBGI stock, some cash, assumption of $80 million in debt, and proceeds from selling the General Media Towers (to whom, I wonder?) Beasley will also have to sell off two FM stations to stay under FCC limits in Charlotte

  3. Fred Stiening says:

    Information from several sources suggest that Beasley will immediately shed WBT and WLNK. When the station was up for sale from Lincoln Financial, a guy named Don Curtis wanted to buy it. He has been on a tear buying up everything in North Carolina (57 stations) and runs the North Carolina News Network that is fed statewide. His company is based in Raleigh. It would be a perfect fit

    http://curtismedia.com/stations/

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