Feb 21, 2024 - Business

Billionaire George Soros steps up to save Chicago radio stations

Photo of a man in a crowd listening to speech

Financier and philanthropist George Soros at the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture on June 8, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Popow/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Billionaire George Soros' investment firm is poised to take control of Audacy, which owns several radio stations in Chicago.

The big picture: The 93-year-old progressive philanthropist is set to become the latest owner in Chicago media to have political leanings, stepping in after the publicly traded radio and podcast company filed for bankruptcy in January.

What's happening: Soros' investment firm has acquired about $400 million of Audacy's debt, with plans to swap loans for stocks, court filings revealed this week.

  • The plan, which a bankruptcy court approved on Tuesday, would make Soros' firm the largest shareholder of Audacy once the company emerges from bankruptcy, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

What they're saying: "The decision by our existing and new debtholders to become equity holders in Audacy represents a significant vote of confidence in our company and the future of the radio and audio business," an Audacy spokesperson tells Axios.

Context: Locally, Audacy owns and operates WXRT-FM, WUSN-FM, WBBM-FM, WBBM-AM, WBMX-FM and WSCR-AM.

Zoom out: Several owners of Chicago radio stations have contributed to political causes, and some broadcast partisan content.

Between the lines: When asked about Soros' influence, an Audacy spokesperson says the company intends "to continue running our business, executing our strategy and delivering for our listeners and advertisers as we always do."

Flashback: Soros has been involved in Chicago media before, but more as a political topic than a business venture. Former Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote a scathing piece about Soros that drew backlash from Chicago Tribune Guild union members, who accused Kass of using antisemitic tropes.

What's next: The deal needs to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

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