Lease to Own: Tampa's Greatest Black Owned Radio Station May Soon Be Black-Owned No Longer
That was a blockbuster notion, mostly because Cherry had been serving as general manager of Tampa's largest black-owned radio station since his family-owned company bought it in 1997, pressing their vision of a radio station which would serve as the voice of Tampa's black community.
Tampa's black-focused newspaper, the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, first reported on the issue. But it turns out there was more to the story; all nine of the radio stations owned by Cherry's Tama Broadcasting company have been leased to another company controlled by a white-owned investment firm in New York City. See my story in Saturday's Times here.
Cherry described the lease as a "kick the tires" arrangement allowing the leasing company to manage Tama's stations with an eye toward purchasing them. If that happens, WTMP would become the latest local station to join a chain run by an out of town corporation, and the city's biggest black-focused "heritage" or "legacy" radio station would be owned by people who are not black for perhaps the first time in its 50-plus-year history.
Ironically, the lease and possible sale was initiated by Cherry's investment partners, the Black Enterprise/Greenwich Street investment fund, a $91-million pot created in 1997 to help grow minority-owned businesses. According to Cherry, the fund -- established by the biggest black-focused economic magazine in the country, Black Enterprise -- wanted to get the $16-million or so it invested in Tama out of the company, and decided this was the best tack.
What I couldn't find out Friday and hope to resolve soon: What are the new lessor's plans for WTMP? Will the radio stations actually be sold? And why did Tama have so many problems meeting its obligations to the Black Enterprise fund?