It's an end of an era in Philadelphia radio.
Entercom, which is based in Bala Cynwyd and owns the popular Philadelphia radio stations 94.1 WIP and 98.1 WOGL, announced that it was purchasing 101.1 More FM from Jerry Lee Radio LLC for $57.5 million. More FM was the last major independent station in the country.
More FM, which was rebranded from B101 in 2013 and is well-known for shifting to an all-Christmas-music format every December, generally ends each month as the top-ranked station in the Philadelphia market, according to Nielsen ratings.
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"We are very pleased to add the legendary WBEB, one of the country's most recognized and awarded stations, to our group," Entercom CEO David Field said in a statement. "I tip my cap to Jerry Lee, one of the industry pioneers and a visionary leader who built 'B101' into such a special station and has done so much for radio over the decades."
Lee, the chairman of More FM who first joined the station shortly after it was founded as WDVR in 1963 by former partner David L. Kurtz, also praised Entercom and said his employees and the "crown jewel of Philadelphia radio" will be in good hands.
"I've known them forever. I just think the world of the family," Lee said. "Once you're on top as a dominant station, you've really got to screw things up to lose that spot."
To make room for the station, Entercom is selling the country-music station 92.5 XTU to Beasley Media Group, which owns six stations in the Philadelphia market, including 93.3 WMMR and 97.5 The Fanatic. According to Beasley, that deal is worth $38 million.
"Unfortunately, we have had to make some difficult choices," Entercom senior vice president David Yadgaroff said in an email announcing the deal obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News. Field said employees at the station "will be in great hands."
Beasley CEO Caroline Beasley called the purchase of WXTU a "strategically and financially compelling" growth opportunity in a market it only entered in 2016, after acquiring Greater Media for $240 million.
"As the former owner of WXTU-FM, Beasley originally launched the station's country music format in 1983 against the advice of a number of industry pundits who believed it wouldn't succeed in the Philadelphia market," Beasley said in a statement. "Today, WXTU-FM remains one of the best and most listened-to country music stations in America."
Neither company indicated whether any changes to on-air personalities were planned as part of the deals. Both purchases are expected to close by the end of the third quarter of 2018.
The radio industry generally has been dealing with a crisis of its own making after station groups gorged on debt to build themselves into big corporations after the 1996 rewrite of the federal telecommunications laws. Those station groups then ran into hard times when ad growth slowed, and new platforms — satellite and digital — drained listeners away from over-the-air radio.
Entercom has not been immune. It closed on a $4 billion deal for CBS Radio last November, including six CBS Radio stations in the Philadelphia market. But revenues at CBS Radio stations fell 6 percent in the fourth quarter. And when Field said a turnaround wasn't expected until late 2018, Wall Street has punished the stock, knocking it down from $10.60 on May 7 to a 52-week low of $6.40 on June 5. Entercom shares rose 5 cents on Thursday to close at $8.05.