Cumulus hangs onto The Loop, 101 WKQX

WLUP studio

Cumulus Media will continue to operate classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 and alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1 under an agreement reached Thursday with Merlin Media, which owns the two stations.

Cumulus risked forfeiting the stations when it moved to nullify unprofitable contracts in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing last month. Among them were deals with Merlin to acquire The Loop and 101 WKQX, which Cumulus has been operating under a local marketing agreement since 2014.

Mary Berner, president and chief executive officer of Cumulus Media, announced a last-minute accord Thursday night to maintain the status quo for three-month intervals, with the option for additional extensions. In the meantime, Merlin will be free to shop for a new owner. Cumulus remains a potential buyer.

Cumulus Media

“We’re pleased to reach this mutual agreement, which establishes a clear path forward for these stations and our employees in Chicago following months of negotiations with Merlin,” Berner said in a statement. “We continue to be interested in permanently acquiring these stations on economic terms that make sense for our business.”

Added Berner: “Nothing is changing in the near-term. It is business as usual for team members, advertisers and partners, and we look forward to achieving a favorable outcome for all parties involved.”

That’s especially good news for Erich Mancow Muller, morning personality on The Loop. Although Muller’s contract also was among those canceled by Cumulus, he expressed confidence it would all work out. “I predict that when the smoke clears nothing will change and I’ll be with Cumulus,” he said last week.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, The Loop ranked 13th with a 2.7 percent audience share, and 101 WKQX tied for 15th with a 2.5 share.

Atlanta-based Cumulus owns news/talk WLS AM 890 and classic hits WLS FM 94.7.

Thursday’s best comment: Joe Cappo: Harvey Wittenberg taught me everything I know about radio during the 18 years I spent at what used to be called FM100. Too bad he never told me how to maintain my youthful good looks, as he has done. He is as vital and active now as I remember him from the 1970s and 1980s. Never ever surrender, Harvey.