The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 March 2009

ABC Radio Owner Citadel Communications Shares Worth One Penny


ABC Radio Owner Finishes Trading At One Penny


Even for the most jaded industry professionals, it's stunning to believe shares of one of the nation's largest radio station owners might trade for a single penny.

And yet that's exactly what has happened to ABC Radio owner Citadel Communications, a once-proud group operator destroyed by massive debt, epic mismanagement and a liberal political ideology often at odds with the company's still-successful and profitable conservative talk radio programming.

Booted off of the New York Stock Exchange after it failed to make a convincing case for its future viability, Citadel will cease trading there tomorrow, moving to the illiquid and sometimes shady world of the "pink sheets". That's despite a recent move by the NYSE to relax listing requirements.

Ahead of that undignified exit, Citadel (NYSE:CDL) shares closed today at one penny, down nine cents from Wednesday's trading. In 2004, it traded as high as $22.

That leaves a total market capitalization of just under three million dollars, despite owning some of the nation's largest radio stations, including WABC / New York City, WMAL / Washington, WBAP / Dallas - Fort Worth, KGO - KSFO / San Francisco, WLS / Chicago, WJR / Detroit, KABC / Los Angeles and dozens of other music and talk stations across the country, from Albuquerque to Providence and all points in between.

Citadel's original ownership and management team built a highly-successful firm around conservative talkers on the AM band and country music stations on FM, mostly in medium-sized Sunbelt markets. When subsequent owners acquired ABC Radio and saw their own liberal ideology clash with Citadel's established internal structure, it began to unravel.

Many of these stations still turn in remarkably strong ratings and are lucky enough to feature successful (in both ratings and revenue) talk programs hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and others at a time when talk radio is dominating the national spotlight.

But recent meddling by Citadel's incompetent managers have led to baffling moves, such as watering down WABC with incompatible, non-conservative programs such as Don Imus and "Joe and Mika", as well as dumping nearly all local programming in the nation's largest market.

Your Radio Equalizer has been tracking this mess for nearly two years, warning of the consequences of this meltdown. In yesterday's Washington Times, yours truly called for a "divorce" to remove highly lucrative talk radio programming away from sagging music radio formats and their rapidly-disintigrating audiences.

The broadcast industry's rapid deterioration calls into question the Obamist plan to impose a backdoor-Fairness Doctrine designed to suppress opposition voices by breaking up large station ownership groups. Before they even have that opportunity, these companies are far more likely to collapse on their own.

From there, who will own these stations? Will some join the newspaper industry and be forced to shut down?

ELSEWHERE: ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Denies Conflict-of-Interest Generating Conference Calls With White House Staff

ALSO: Joe and Mika vs Olbermann!

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

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  • Wow... What will happen to this company? Who will, better yet, who will buy it? It has so many successfull stations, the radio commercials are selling on the majors for high rates, where is the money going? Is it the majors or the mediums that are taking the ship down?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:07  

  • I'm confused. They hire a highly successful John McCain supporting morning host who was virtually described as a martyr by conservatives when he was fired last and a former Congressman as well as conservative Republican footsoldiers of Newt Gingrich. And now they are suddenly "liberal"?

    You could argue they may need to hire BETTER or perhaps cheaper conservative talent but you cannot argue it is some type of liberal conspiracy with a straight face.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:09  

  • You can't blame Imus for this one.
    He generates ad revenue.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:10  

  • WABC ruled for many years. Luckily, I am able to listen for most of the day. Had a great mix of local (John Gambling) and national (Rush, et al.).
    When they moved Gambling out for the Boring Nobody and Mika show and replaced Curtis & Kuby with the ever-anoying Imus I turned them off for those slots.
    And I told them so in writing. No responses.
    Now, WOR 710 in NYC has the Glen Beck show in the late morning. Will be #1 in his time slot if he is not already.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:13  

  • hahaha. idiots.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:14  

  • I would say that the Radio industry was destroyed by deregulation. It has Been Ruined by Wall Street. Like other business and industries. Yes Citadel has had lousy management. However, the speculation that Imus is Non conservative is non sense. Further, that ABC's politic conflicted with it's AM talkers is just not the issue. The government needs to reimpose regulations. The ones that allowed a pair of stations per - owner in each market. Radio as an industry supplied jobs. Now, it is being run into the ground by the Stock Market. Coming off Wall Street could be a blessing in disguise.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:15  

  • Didn't want the crappy Citadel stock when it snuck into my portfolio as a spinoff in lieu of a dividend; it was worthless then, it is worthless now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:50  

  • hehe. how do I put a purchase order with a broker. Here man, $11 for 1100 shares and 11 for your fee.

    it's ridiculous!

    By Blogger suki, at 05 March, 2009 18:51  

  • This was bound to happen as you said. Its a tragedy for some close to me that they have either lost their jobs or personalities for that reason. I do think this may re-open the radio market to once again have it be a creative outlet and give the chance to those with the creativity to help it prevail. The times will get rough, but lets all stay positive and figure out a solution together! Yeah its a Utopian attitude, but jeez what else do we all have. First Paul Harvey now this!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 18:51  

  • Failure occurs when you try and force one to adopt your own twisted ideology.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 19:43  

  • donate what? to you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 19:47  

  • Mainsream media deserves this for lying about 911 and WMD.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 20:07  

  • Partisan arguments are baseless, even more 'left-wing' media organizations (i.e. NY Times) are feeling significant financial pain.

    Radio on its own is just on the downturn.

    By Blogger Mark, at 05 March, 2009 20:26  

  • So, lemme git it straight... ABC radio institutes it's own Nazi Pelosi "fairness Doctrine" and it goes belly up like "Dead-Air Anti-America" radio and all of the Democrats still want to go through with it?
    How much more proof do you need that attacking the fist ammendment is a bad idea? Don't you all want a government with "Checks and Balances"? What about a "Freedom of Choice" to turn the radio station if you don't like it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 20:35  

  • Another victim of the Obama plan to bring socialism to America by creating financial crisis. The list will get longer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 20:38  

  • The only ones worth my time are Rush and Hannity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 20:42  

  • wake up and hail howard stern

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 21:11  

  • good ,they deserve to be out of business. buit wait perhaps they also will get bailed out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 21:17  

  • Imus is a RAVING LIBERAL and ABC hasn't presented the News for my life time. They, like NBC,CBS, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, The New York Times, LA Times, The SF Cronicle, the SJ mercury news, and every major newspaper in every large city are publishing Socialist propoganda and would know the news if it kicked them in the crotch. I now longer by any book, CD's, or go to any movies for the same reason. They all blame their problems on the internet, the problem is their socialist dogma. By the way if I could boycot the schools I would for the same reason.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 21:36  

  • Paul Harvey got out before he saw it tank. I wonder if the CEO will get his bonus reward as they all seem to get after running a company into the ground.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 March, 2009 21:56  

  • This puts the FCC in a difficult position. With all the radio stations going dark, how will its backdoor Fairness Doctrine get Limabaugh off the air. There should be plenty of slots available for community owned stations. No spectrum shortage now. Now the question is: how can they be made profitable.

    Would the FCC charge license fees based on audience size and nail Limabugh with paying for the costs of the stations no one wants to listen to? Never underestimate the damage the Obama administration and FCC can do.

    To anonymous who wants to reimpose the two stations per market rule. This was relaxed to prevent the radio band from going dark with the exception of two or three stations in each band. It's not just AM, the FM band is in trouble too.

    The problem with radio economics is the vast increase in spectrum availabiity from satellite radio. Add to this cheap downloads for ipods. With ipods and now iphones, people can listen to their selections, not crummy station playlists.

    I can remember in the mid 80s, you could buy an AM station for $500. Not in a top 10 market an not 50,000 watts, but a license nonetheless. Elimination of Fairness and a hungry conservative audience tired of uber liberal network TV news, made the AM band the hotspot for political commentary.

    Funny that Democrats used to be champions of free speech. But that was in the era of Berkley radicals and the Vietnam war. My how things have changed!

    By Blogger Corky Boyd, at 05 March, 2009 22:09  

  • Qote:
    “Never underestimate the damage the Obama administration and FCC can do.”

    Obama Lied, the Economy Died!
    Lib-bots lie, it’s an old DemocRatz tradition…

    By Blogger L1M89, at 06 March, 2009 12:54  

  • Phil Boyce put together a great talk station, with WABC.. Whoever took his place is slowly dismantling it.

    The station just doesn't sound the same anymore.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 March, 2009 18:35  


    Looks like someone knew the end was near and cashed out. Oh and conservative talk is dying a slow and painful death. O'rielly bailed. Hannity is boring, Rush is getting old, Laura Ingraham sounds funny because her lips don't move from all the BOTOX. The list goes on and on. Just face it, the country has moved away from the conservative movement. You guys blew it and it only took 30 years to ruin what took 45 years to build. The final nail in the coffin W for 8 years. The right lost it's way drunken by power and pooped themselves. Great job ladies and gentleman on the right. You had your chance now just sit down and shut up.
    Don't believe me that the country moved away from conservative talk radio checkout Ed Schultz's rating's he's closing in on El Fatso Rushbo. Oh and btw Reagan sucked ass, he was a puppet tool and a fool to boot. Also he spent like a drunken sailor with the countries credit card. He started our national debt debacle. FOOL!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 July, 2009 10:48  

  • The demographic of uneducated scared old racist white men is (literally) a dead end. Look at his advertisers..orthopedic matresses, fake Viagra, fake baldness and weight loss cures, Now that Citadel has declared bankruptcy, all their past carriage contracts for Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin and other can be renegotiated though the courts. SHould be interesting to see the financial losses carried up the food chain through Premiere and ultimately through to Rush and Hannity, just like Kmart's bankrupcty destroyed suppliers Fleming foods and Tom McAnn shoes.

    By Blogger Gary, at 01 February, 2010 18:22  

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