CBS Inc. said it has agreed to sell news/talk radio station WSUN (620-AM) to Cox Enterprises Inc. of Atlanta. None of the participants in the sale would divulge a sale price, but some outside interested parties speculated the transaction to be anywhere between $5-million and $8-million.
WSUN was purchased in 1985 by CBS in conjunction with WYNF for a figure at the time reported to be $22-million. CBS will keep WYNF (94.9-FM), a highly rated album-rock station. As in all such transactions, the sale is subject to final terms and federal approval.
"It is a matter of focusing our energies and our creativity and (general manager) Shawn Portmann's management skills on the FM at this point," Nancy Widmann, president of CBS Radio Division, said Tuesday. "It was a pure business decision."
"It is important to me to be dealing with people like Cox," she added. "They in my mind are broadcasters, not traders of radio stations. We wouldn't be involved with anyone if it wasn't of the caliber of Cox."
Cox a year and a half ago purchased WWRM (107.3-FM), successor to beautiful music station WWBA. Under new management, the new call letters were adopted and a background instrumental music format was replaced by soft rock, nostalgic vocal hits of the 1970s. The company also owns radio stations in Atlanta, Miami, Dayton, Charlotte, Los Angeles and Chicago. It has TV stations in Orlando, Atlanta, Dayton, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, San Francisco-Oakland and Detroit.
WSUN was a country music station when CBS acquired it 1985. Since January 1989, it has developed in slow stages toward an all-news format currently programing extended blocks of all-news from 5:30-10 a.m., noon-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. Gaps in that format are filled with NBC Talknet program, both live and on tape.
WYNF will remain in the station's current facility in the northern edge of the Koger Center office complex in St. Petersburg. WSUN will move with WWRM in the same complex when the sale is consummated, expected to be well within two months, Widmann said.
The prospect of WSUN's further evolution toward a daytime all-news format was naturally placed into some doubt by the proposed sale. "We are in the process of doing extensive re
search to determine which format would best serve the needs of the community," said WWRM general manager Bob Huntley, in a statement released in his absence. He was out of town attending a corporate convention, a station employee said.
"Considering Cox Broadcasting, stations like WSB (Atlanta) and WIOD (Miami), I'm hopeful they would continue with this station (on its current course)," said WSUN news director Ronald J. Ebben.
Neither Ebben, Widmann nor Portmann would speculate immediately on the future of the WSUN news staff, which includes more than 10 full-time employees, plus a handful of part-timers.
Most of the Cox chain AM radio stations program news/talk formats, including WIOD and WSB. The Tampa Bay market currently has two other major talk stations, WFLA (970-AM) and WTKN (570-AM). Neither carries as extensive a news format as WSUN's, but both regard news as integral.
Widmann said the sale of WSUN had no link to CBS acquiring other broadcast properties in the Tampa Bay area. Both CBS and NBC have been reported and rumored to be interested in purchasing WTVT-Ch. 13 from its minority owner, the Gillett Broadcasting Group.