In August 2019, some four months after an “upgrade” to an FM signal once owned by The E.W. Scripps Co., Family Life Radio sold a Class B AM serving Arizona’s second-largest market to Fletcher McCusker in a deal brokered by Kalil & Co.
Under McCusker’s ownership, this AM and its all-important FM translator have attracted lovers of “Timeless Music” from such classic artists as James Taylor, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers and The Lovin’ Spoonful. In fact, the facilities combined to generate a 5.0 rating in the overall Nielsen Audio ratings for Tucson in January 2023, ranking No. 4 among all listeners.
Pending FCC approval, it will be up to Amador Bustos to decide whether or not “The Drive” around Tucson will stay the same.
The veteran Hispanic radio entrepreneur, through his Bustos Media, has filed an application with the FCC that sees it agree to purchase the assets of KDRI-AM 830 in Tucson and FM translator K269FV at 101.7 MHz from McCusker’s Tucson Radio LLC.
KDRI and K269FV are branded as “The Drive.”
Once the transaction, which Amador Bustos tells RBR+TVBR is valued at $800,000, is complete, “The Drive” will join a group of stations comprised of KVOI-AM 1030 “The Voice,” an English-language conservative-leaning Talk station; KTGV-FM 106.3 “The Groove,” a Rhythmic Classic Hits FM playing Young MC’s “Bust a Move” at 6:35am on Wednesday (3/29); regional Mexican KZLZ-FM 105.3 “La Poderosa”; and reggaetón-fueled Spanish Contemporary KZLZ-HD2, “Urbana 92.5.”
The unconfirmed purchase price is a triumph for McCusker, as he acquired what was previously KFLT in April 2019 for $650,000. As such, it is one of the few transactions in recent memory where an AM radio station’s value appreciated, rather than declined, in an era when companies such as Audacy Corp. and Beasley Media Group are voluntarily surrendering AM radio station licenses to the FCC and selling the more valuable land on which the stations’ broadcast towers lie.
Given the total market appeal of Bustos Media’s Tucson stations, “The Drive” is expected to continue with its current music mix, as longtime radio industry programmer Bobby Rich is “happy to transfer The Drive to Bustos so it takes its proud place as the flagship of his radio group.”
That said, it is believed Rich, a co-owner as is Jim Arnold, is not staying. “I am happy to have driven this special format,” he said. “The listener response has been nothing short of phenomenal.”
There’s also a management change in the works, as Bustos Media/Tucson General Manager Patty Ruiz will add KDRI to her oversight as of April 1.
An Asset Purchase Agreement had not yet been posted to the FCC’s LMS as of Wednesday morning, Pacific Time.
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, McCusker explained why he’s selling the stations. “The biggest challenge we’ve had is that we’re a stand-alone station,” he said. “Everybody else is a package like Cumulus and iHeart. Even though we’ve risen to No. 2 in the market, we’re not going to get anywhere without a budget.”
McCusker, who had no other broadcast interests upon purchasing KDRI and its FM translator, is the CEO of UAVenture Capital. He started the operation with President and co-founder Michael Deitch, and the two are known for their roles involving the IPO of Tucson based Providence Service Corporation. UAVenture Capital’s mission? “We Are A Venture Capital Fund Designed to Commercialize University of Arizona Science, Technology, Services and Products.”