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WCGO Being Purchased By William Pollack

Kovas Communications, the Fort Wayne, IN-based parent company of WCGO-AM 1590, has agreed to sell the radio station to William (Bill) Pollack, based out of Memphis, TN. This will become Pollack's third suburban Chicago radio station in the last year, while Kovas will exit the market completely, and for the most part, the radio industry.

At closing, Pollack will give Kovas $3 million for WCGO-AM. He will also gain the GAB Radio (Global American Broadcasting) company that provides technical production and distribution services to several nationally-syndicated radio talk programs. Kovas purchased GAB in 2015.

In December of last year, Pollack closed on his $2 million purchase to Richard (Rick) Jakle's Radio Shopping Show, Inc for WBIG-AM/The BIG One AM 1280 in west suburban Aurora, WRMN-AM/AM 1410 in west suburban Elgin, KSHP-AM in Las Vegas, and the full rights to the intellectual property of "The Radio Shopping Show."

Pollack's companies also own radio stations in Missouri, as well as television stations in California and Louisiana.

Assuming the transaction faces no federal approval hurdles (which it shouldn't), the closing is expected to take place by the end of August.

According to a spokesperson, Pollack is planning to keep WCGO-AM's current format in place for now. This includes the longtime Korean Christian Broadcasting System programming in weekday mornings, other brokered ethnic shows, brokered English language shows, and some lesser syndicated fare. Pollack would also like to add some additional English-language local programming to WCGO-AM to better serve Chicago's north side and northern suburbs, where the station primarily broadcasts to.

In a statement Pollack said: "The acquisition of WCGO and GAB is the perfect complement to my northwest and southwest suburban radio stations as we now cover all corners of the Chicago market." He added: "Joe (Walburn) put together a stellar crew that I will keep on, including General Manager Chuck Duncan and all of the talented operators. Soon the call letter W C G O will be known by millions of people in Chicagoland."

WCGO-AM launched in 1959 on AM 1600. The call letters stood for W-ChicaGO. WCGO-AM used to only broadcast during the daytime at just 1,000 watts. Originally owned by South Cook Broadcasting, WCGO-AM was sold to M&M Broadcasting in 1994, and finally to Kovas Communications in 2002. Kovas Communications took the station off the air on April 10, 2009. Three days later, the WCGO-AM call letters were moved to Kovas-owned sister station AM 1590, the former WONX-AM. (Kovas Communications had owned that station on the 1590 frequency since 1976, after purchasing it from Cummings Communications.) This move was done in part to help increase AM 1590's wattage output from 3,500 to 7,000 watts (which has since been increased to 10,000 watts).

After years of being a quiet, ethnic-only radio station, Kovas Communications chose to try and revamp the station in September 2014, adding English-language shows, a new logo, a new website, and a stronger signal. The results were mixed, as programs seemed to have been changed out frequently, often due to brokerage agreements that didn't work out as planned.

At the start of 2016, Kovas Communications gave a time brokerage agreement (TBA) to Liftable Media Inc. and that company's subsidiary Anthem Broadcasting. Along with the TBA, Liftable Media was given a purchase option agreement for the station, which was to allow Liftable/Anthem to own WCGO-AM outright later that year.

Anthem quickly went to work attempting to improve WCGO-AM's programming and profitability. Among the new additions were top of the hour newscasts from USA Radio News (owned by USA Radio Networks, which is owned and operated by Anthem Broadcasting), the afternoon show "Trending Today USA with Rusty Humphries" and evening show "Classic Radio Theater" (both distributed by USA Radio Networks), host Rodd Stowell, weekend NASCAR racing via a partnership with the Motor Racing Network and the Chicagoland Speedway, and a broadcast partnership with the Chicago Bandits, the women's professional softball team based out of Rosemont.

However, by the end of May, Kovas was not pleased with some of the rapid changes taking place at their station, including the demotion of General Manager Chuck Duncan, a Kovas employee. A matter of weeks later, Kovas and Liftable/Anthem came to a mutual agreement to void their contract and part ways. Kovas then regained control of WCGO-AM, but it again fell into the same rut it had before Anthem's shot of adrenaline, with ever-changing brokered shows that did not resonate with listeners. Kovas once again began seeking a new owner for its Evanston radio station.

Kovas Communications was founded by famed radio engineer and entrepreneur Frank Kovas. Since his passing in 2005, the company has been owned by his wife, Connie Kovas, and operated by her son, Joe Walburn.

Stated Walburn: "It's comforting to know that Bill Pollack will be taking over the reins of the last of our family-owned radio stations. He is a seasoned broadcaster and we could not be more delighted with this deal. My step-father Frank Kovas would have been very happy that the station is going to a true broadcaster."

Dick Foreman, of the brokerage firm Richard A. Foreman Associates, served as broker for the seller.

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