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WABC radio's owner buys East End's WLIR-FM for simulcasting

Billionaire John Catsimatidis has bought the East End

Billionaire John Catsimatidis has bought the East End radio station WLIR/107.1 FM to simulcast with WABC/770 AM, which he also owns. Credit: Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic

John Catsimatidis, the colorful Manhattan billionaire who bought legendary radio station WABC/770 AM last summer and is reportedly exploring another run for the New York mayoralty, has purchased WLIR/107.1 FM. The deal, pending FCC approval, was announced Wednesday when WABC's talk programming began simulcasting on the Hampton Bays-based station.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Catsimatidis said he has split his time between his homes in the Hamptons and Manhattan for decades "but I've lived [in the Hamptons] for the last 90 days [and] I was getting a lousy [WABC] signal out here. WABC is a 50,000 watt clear-channel station at night that you can get in 27 states but not eastern Long Island for some reason [so] when the opportunity came along to buy an FM station where I could simulcast, I bought [WLIR.]" He called the purchase price "confidential." 

WLIR — not to be confused with the once-hugely influential rock station that broadcast out of  Garden City  the '70s and '80s— began as WWHB in 1980, and was later purchased by Paul Simon. After a number of owner and format changes (including Christian radio) it became a classic hits station in 2018.

In the news release announcing the simulcast, Catsimatidis called the purchase "just the beginning. We’re going to deliver news and information that will keep listeners informed with the truth of what’s really going on in New York, Washington, and the world.”

Chad Lopez, president of WABC, also said in the release, “As we settle into the Long Island marketplace, we will explore the possibility of adding local talent to WLIR-FM.”

Meaning? Catsimatidis said "we will add local [Long Island] talent" to the WLIR/WABC lineup but said it was premature to speculate about when or who. 

Meanwhile, might he be in the market to purchase other Long Island radio stations? Catsimatidis — who last ran for New York City mayor in 2013, but is probably best-known for his string of Gristedes supermarkets and Red Apple stores, and has a personal net worth (per Forbes) of an estimated $3.4 billion — said, "you never know. I've always said, if there are opportunities, we'll write a check." 

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