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December 08. 2012 9:11PM

Radio station ownership change expands reach for chains

A deal to remake the landscape for radio station ownership in Northern New England started at a bankruptcy auction in May and came to a close last week, as two New Hampshire-based media companies took over operation of 28 stations once owned by Nassau Broadcasting in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Of the 30 radio stations on the block, 17 are now owned by WBIN Media, the company started two years ago by former U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie of Rye, while 11 were sold to Great Eastern Radio of Lebanon. Prior to being forced into bankruptcy by its creditors, Nassau owned nine stations in New Hampshire, 10 in Vermont and 11 in Maine.

The purchases expand Binnie's growing media holdings in the state, which include WBIN-TV in Derry and several low-power TV stations that make up his New Hampshire Network.

The winning bids for the 30 stations totaled $12.5 million, with Great Eastern paying $4.4 million and Binnie's company, Carlisle Capital, paying $8.1 million at the auction in May, according to Jeff Shapiro, one of three partners in Great Eastern.

The closing on all the stations took place Dec. 3.

"The stations we're buying fit like a glove with our existing radio group," Shapiro said. Great Eastern already operates radio stations in Bow, Lebanon and Keene, and acquired stations in the Lebanon area, as well as the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and the Capital Region of Vermont.

Shapiro said the group now has consolidated radio holdings in an area along the New Hampshire and Vermont border, between the two state capitals.

In the Concord and Lakes Region, the stations acquired by Great Eastern include WHDQ (Q-106) in Claremont and WRFK (Frank FM) in Barre, Vt. The stations acquired by Binnie include WLNH, WNHW and WJYY, all in the Laconia-Guilford area.

Shapiro said Great Eastern is not planning any changes in format or personnel at the newly acquired radio stations. "Most of the stations we bought, we're not changing any of the formats," he said. "These are fabulous assets, with big signals, the heritage, dominant radio stations that just need to be polished up again."

Great Eastern is not planning an staff cuts at the stations, and in fact is hiring. "As far as human capital goes, we are adding people," he said.

Binnie was unavailable for comment as to his plans, but has said in previous interviews that his goal is to create "the preeminent media company in New Hampshire."

Shaprio has been in the radio business in New Hampshire since shortly after his graduation from Dartmouth University in 1983. In 1984, he and a friend bought their first radio station in Claremont. He sold several stations to Nassau Broadcasting in 2004.

"Of the 11 stations I'm buying, I owned half of them before, and now bought them back," he said.

In dividing the former Nassau properties, Binnie and Shapiro split the New Hampshire stations, while Binnie got most of the Maine stations and Great Eastern got most of the Vermont stations.

"It was a very complex transaction, because of the bankruptcy," Shaprio said, "but we emerged from it with a very positive relationship."

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Dave Solomon may be reached at dsolomon@unionleader.com.



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