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Cumulus takes over Merlin Media’s Chicago FMs.


Doubling the size of its Chicago cluster, Cumulus Media has begun operating classic rock “97.9 The Loop” WLUP and hot AC “i101.1 FM” WIQI under a local marketing agreement with Merlin Media.  The deal includes an option for Cumulus to buy the pair.  The two FMs will join the company’s classic hits WLS-FM (94.7) and talk WLS (890) in the Windy City.   Merlin Media earlier sold its stations in New York and Philadelphia.

The deal includes the intellectual property of modern rock WKQX-LP, which Cumulus will return to the 101.1 frequency, replacing WIQI’s hot AC format.   “The addition of WKQX and WLUP will add two legendary radio brands to the two legendary radio brands Cumulus already owns in Chicago,” EVP/co-COO John Dickey told Inside Radio. “We are excited to be growing our presence in one of the best media markets in the world.”

Crain’s Chicago says the deal with the private equity firm GTCR, which holds a majority stake in Merlin Media, came together quickly.   Cumulus and GTCR had been talking only a few weeks when an agreement was hatched.   Under the terms, Crain’s says Cumulus will have four years to exercise its option to buy the FMs but CEO Lew Dickey predicts it won’t LMA the stations for that length of time.  “We're not in the business of renting things,” he said.

The company says the addition of the Chicago stations is part of its continued goal of building scale in major markets, a strategy that last year led Cumulus to buy what’s now country “Nash FM 94.7” WNSH, New York for $40 million.

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