Officials of McDonald Investment Co. Inc. of Birmingham, Ala. began eyeing Ventura County in June. In particular they liked the business opportunities they saw in the local radio market.
It didn't take long for them to act on their feelings.
In August, the company purchased Ventura news station KVEN-AM (1450) and its sister country music station KHAY-FM (101). And earlier this month, McDonald Investment announced an agreement to buy KBBY-FM (95.1).
McDonald Investment also owns three radio stations in Eugene, Ore., and another three in Alabama. The company ventured into Ventura County, officials said, because of what they saw as a promising local economy.
"Ventura County is in what appears to be a growth mode," said Jack Standridge, a management consultant for McDonald Investment. "There is a high standard of living, a high household income and the outlook for radio advertising is great."
McDonald Investment's purchase of KBBY, which is expected to receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission within 90 days, was part of an approximately $8.5-million transaction that included the sale of Ventura's KTND-FM (105.5) and KXSP-AM (1590) to Gold Coast Communications Inc. of Santa Clarita.
The sale of KBBY accounted for about $6 million of the deal.
All three stations are being sold by Buenaventura Inc., owned by the estate of former Montecito resident George Duncan, a longtime radio broadcaster and executive who died in 1995.
KBBY, KVEN and KHAY are part-owned and operated by Bengal Communications Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M. Joe Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of Bengal, said Ventura County offers opportunities other areas of Southern California do not.
"We feel very strongly that probably the most dynamic economy in the country is Southern California's," he said. "But from a radio standpoint, we can't afford to buy in Los Angeles because radio stations are $110 million and up."
Schwartz said McDonald and Bengal looked at Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, but decided those areas had already experienced their growth spurts.
Ventura, he said, has yet to develop to its capacity.
"If you look at markets the size of Ventura County, retail sales there are far larger, which means Ventura County is underdeveloped. So we see a tremendous opportunity," he said. "The major key is growth, as well as buying successful stations. All three stations are successful."
KBBY, KVEN and KHAY will share one general manager, Joe Armeo, who joined the latter two stations in mid-September. Schwartz said that although the three stations are under the same ownership and management they will remain competitors in the Ventura market.
"They compete for audience, they compete for revenue, they compete in every way," he said. "They will have similarities in the business departments, but as far as on-air, promotions and advertising they will be completely different."
Schwartz said the staff and the formats of the stations will remain unchanged.
"The listeners shouldn't notice anything," he said. "There is not going to be any perceptible difference at all."