Norman Waitt once controlled more than 70 radio stations and five TV stations, but now he's selling his remaining broadcast business.
Pending federal approval, Waitt Media and McCarthy Capital of Omaha will sell their majority ownership in the 45-station radio group NRG Media LLC of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an undisclosed amount.
The buyer is Cyprus Capital Partners, a New York City-based investment fund. NRG said its managers, including CEO Mary Quass, remain as “significant owners.” She said the transaction will give NRG stability and financing to expand into new markets.
John Schuele, president of Waitt Co., the parent of Waitt Media, said broadcasting was “our first business. Norm has a passion for radio and music, and it did well. But it was a good time to exit from an industry standpoint” and make other investments. “We have plenty of opportunities.”
NRG is in the right markets and didn't suffer much in the 2008-10 recession, he said, and the offer from Cyprus is an opportunity for NRG's management to move ahead.
About two-thirds of NRG's 200 employees are at stations in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Kearney, Neb., with the others in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
“Those markets continue to thrive with local content being an important factor,” Schuele said. “It's a fair price. We're happy.” The sale will free up capital for other investments, he said.
NRG was formed in 2005 when Waitt merged his radio division with New Radio Group.
He and his brother, Ted, had founded Gateway Inc. computer company in 1985.
Schuele said Norman Waitt began investing in broadcast businesses in 2000 and has sold stations gradually over the past five years, investing in real estate, sports brands and other sectors.
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CORRECTION: John Schuele was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.