The man dubbed “the most important, least known man in TV” made his entrance into the radio industry last December via a major investment in Emmis Communications stations in New York.
Soohyung Kim, who heads the hedge-fund firm Standard General, paid $91.5 million to Emmis for a 76% equity position in the venture they’ve named Mediaco Holdings in which Emmis retained a 23.7% stake. Emmis will receive an additional $5 million under a five-year promissory note. Kim serves as Chairman, Emmis founder Jeff Smulyan is the company’s CEO.
MediaCo, with Emmis management still in place, consists of urban AC WBLS (107.5) and rhythmic CHR “Hot 97” WQHT New York. The newly formed entity is the No. 3 radio broadcaster in the nation’s No. 1 market in terms of both revenue and ratings, the Indianapolis Business Journal notes in an article profiling the new company. MediaCo also purchased a pair of outdoor companies from Fairway Outdoor Advertising Group for $43 million in December, giving the upstart publicly traded company 3,346 billboards.
Kim has had success turning investments in the broadcast TV business into profits, with the New York Post citing a $75 million investment in then-bankrupt Young Broadcasting that converted into a $300 million profit in six years. It took control of the New York-based TV group, conducted a number of mergers and eventually sold the expanded company to Media General for $4.6 billion.
In 2014, online TV news site TVNewsCheck called Kim “the most important, least known man in TV,” acknowledging his investment and business savvy of riding the TV consolidation wave. Kim was named to GAMCO Management’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
Born in South Korea, at the age of five Kim moved with his family to New York where he was raised in Queens. He learned English watching “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” and graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School and went on to Princeton University. His entrance into the investment world came as a credit analyst on Wall Street.
Speaking briefly to IBJ for the article, Kim was complimentary in regards to his new partnership with Smulyan. “Jeff has a long and storied history, across a number of business lines,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for him. It’s a nice combination.”
The two have known each other for more than a decade, but MediaCo is their first business venture together. “We are at the start of the business. We think it is an exciting time,” Smulyan added. “Hopefully, we can look to create some value. That is the goal.”
Kim is focused on additional media properties for MediaCo, which IBJ says has a stock market value of $32 million. Emmis, meanwhile, after divesting most of its radio assets, is focusing outside the industry for its growth opportunities.