Classic R&B; and hip-hop radio station KDAY-FM (93.5) has been sold to Meruelo Media, a Los Angeles company that has been expanding its holdings.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
The station had been on the market for more than two years. Earlier this year, another company attempted a nearly $20-million deal to buy KDAY from Magic Broadcasting of Florida, but that deal fell apart.
The previous group, RBC Communications, had planned to switch the format to Mandarin language, which startled some longtime listeners. Under its new owners, the station will remain an English-language outlet.
Meruelo executives said Wednesday they also intend to keep the old-school hip-hop format, which should cheer fans of the station who earlier this year launched a social media campaign, Save KDAY, and collected signatures to protest a potential change in programming.
Meruelo Media plans to invest in the station to make it a more robust player in L.A. -- the nation’s largest radio market with an estimated $500 million a year in advertising spending.
“Los Angeles is a great media market, and KDAY is an well-known and established brand,” said Xavier Gutierrez, president and chief investment officer of Meruelo Group. “It is a diamond that had lost its luster. But we felt that it was a good fit with the community, and a distinct radio format with long-term viability.”
KDAY has a rich history in Los Angeles. In the 1980s, the original KDAY-AM (1580) station was the first 24-hour hip-hop station in the U.S., helping launch the careers of such rappers as Dr. Dre and LL Cool J. But the station was sold in 1991 to Los Angeles real estate mogul Fred Sands for $7.2 million. Sands flipped it to a business news station with the call letters KBLA.
Investors revived the KDAY brand in 2004. They reformatted a Spanish-language FM station, KZAB, and promised a return to the previous station’s hip-hop roots under the banner of KDAY-FM (93.5). Over the years, the station underwent several programming changes.
The station’s prospects have been somewhat limited, one analyst said, because its signal is not powerful enough to reach all regions of the sprawling L.A. market. The station simulcasts from two antennas -- KDAY in Los Angeles and KDEY in Riverside and San Bernardino counties -- and its new owners plan to boost its coverage area.
Meruelo Media is a subsidiary of Meruelo Group in Downey, a diversified holding company founded by Alex Meruelo with investments in banks, restaurants and a Reno casino. The company decided against changing the format to Spanish-language to serve as a companion to its TV station, KWHY-TV Channel 22, which Meruelo purchased two years ago from NBCUniversal.
KWHY now is the flagship station for MundoFox, a Spanish-language network that is a joint venture between Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and the Colombian broadcasting powerhouse RCN.
But Meruelo executives decided against a language switch at KDAY.
“It was clear to us that this brand has value, and we want to target a broader audience,” said Otto Padron, president of Meruelo Media. “This station provides us with a unique opportunity to reach a larger audience, including acculturated Hispanics who are migrating away from Spanish-language media and into the general market.”
The Federal Communications Commission must approve the license transfer to Meruelo Group from Magic Broadcasting, which is expected during the first half of 2014.
However, Meruelo Media plans to take over management of the station Jan. 1 through a local marketing agreement with the current ownership.
[Updated: An earlier version of this story said Mereulo management had considered changing the station to Spanish-language, but a company executive said they wanted to retain the hip-hop format.]