WCLZ, Portland’s “adult alternative” radio option, 98.9 on your FM dial, has been purchased by Saga Communications, a mid-sized publicly traded broadcasting company based in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Citadel Broadcasting (owners of WBLM, WCYY, and others, locally) was forced by the FCC to sell the station, along with 10 others that include WCYI locally, to the Last Bastion Station Trust earlier this year when Citadel purchased ABC Radio. WCLZ is the first of those stations to be re-sold, though all of them will eventually be sold off.
WCLZ will now join the Saga-owned Portland Radio Group, which also runs FM stations WMGX (mainstream), WGAN (news talk), WZAN (guy talk), WPOR (country), and WYNZ (oldies).
Samuel Bush, Saga’s chief financial officer, would not disclose the purchase price, but did confirm that Saga is interested in keeping WCLZ’s format the same, and will look to continue the station’s ties with the local music community. “First and foremost, it was attractive because of what it’s currently doing,” Bush says. “Our intentions are to leave it doing the same thing it’s doing.”
Bush called the Portland market “competitive,” but said that’s part of what makes it attractive to Saga: “With good competitors that do good radio, the overall market stands to improve.”
Saga recently opened a similarly formatted station in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Cary Pahigian, president and general manager of Portland Radio Group, says, “we are great fans and admirers of the format and of WCLZ and what it has accomplished over the years ... We think it’s a treasure, actually.”
This jibes with the experience of John Schoenberger, who covers the triple A format for R&R, a publication that has covered the radio industry since 1973. “They really believe in the format,” he says. “Saga saw this as a great opportunity to expand in the New England area. They probably think it’s successful already, with a unique and marketable audience.”
Schoenberger describes Saga as an “aggressive and forward-thinking company” in terms of their programming and work in local markets. However, on the balance sheet, Saga is fairly conservative. Recent public filings show growing revenue and $5 million in net income over the past six months. “We are a steady player in the radio business and in a steady and methodical way move forward,” Bush says, and notes also that Saga has very little debt. “And that gives us an opportunity where a situation exists, like Citadel has to sell WCLZ, to be able to write a check and buy it.”
Charlie Gaylord, host of Greetings from Area Code 207, an hour-long local-music program that recently moved from WCLZ to WBLM, says he has not been contacted by Saga and will continue, for the foreseeable future, with WBLM.