“I’m happy to be back in radio… I love it,” Rhys Holleran has told radioinfo after buying the late Glenn Wheatley’s Sunshine Coast stations.
Holleran, along with Guy Dobson and Nick Scott are the key players in a company called Great Southern Land Media Group (GSL), which announced the acquisition of the two stations yesterday.
Holleran was on the Sunshine Coast over the weekend and took a few of the Mix and Sea leadership team to dinner on Sunday night to brief them, before holding a station meeting yesterday morning to tell all the staff about the purchase, ahead of a public announcement in the afternoon.
After meeting all staff personally yesterday, Holleran headed back to Brisbane on his way back home to Victoria, and spoke to radioinfo while he was driving.
“There’s a team of us involved in this acquisition, we all love radio. I have been the one who has driven this stage of the acquisition from Oceania Capital to our company…. we hope to complete all the formalities soon.
“These stations are an excellent asset, there is great growth in the stations and in this region… I guess I’m starting another radio career, I suppose we all are.”
Holleran, who has spent his time out of radio on his farm breeding race horses, was the CEO of Southern Cross Austereo when the company was forced to sell the two Sunshine Coast stations due to ownership limit rules. “I know these are great stations, we didn’t want to sell them at the time, but we had to. These stations are well run, there is good cash flow, good talent and they have enough size to be successful.”
“I still know a lot of the staff there, they seemed glad to see me, so I will take that as a good sign they are happy with the new owners,” he laughs.
GSL is a private company, so information about all the shareholders and whether funding comes from debt or equity is not publicly available.
GSL has confidence in the current team running the station and there are no plans for changes. Neither Holleran, Scott or Dobson plan to be directly involved in the daily running of the station, although their combined expertise will be highly valuable to the current management team.
Holleran says the deal had been underway for months, well before Glenn Wheatley became sick and eventually died from Covid. “This has been months in the planning, we slowed down a little out of respect for Glenn and his family and only moved to the next stage when they were comfortable to do so.”
The stations had been quietly on the market since 2CH was sold, with Wheatley and Oceania Capital waiting for the right deal before selling. Who approached who? “One of the parties acting for the sale began a conversation with us, which has eventually led to the sale,” says Holleran.
“I’m humbled to be able to be part of the team acquiring these stations, I’ve spent a lifetime in this business and I’m glad to be back in it. Guy and I talk often, so do Nick and I… we had been looking for opportunities and this one just felt right.”
While it is believed there were quite a few interested parties for the stations, not many of them would have been established radio networks. The big networks Nova, SCA, ARN and Nine could not have bought the stations because they have existing assets in Brisbane that cross licence areas into the Sunshine Coast market. ACE Radio now operates a station in Brisbane, which may have also caused problems if it had bought two more on the Sunshine Coast.
Some other existing networks that could have bought the stations without triggering ownership rules might have been: Bill Caralis, whose Supernetwork already has stations in the Gold Coast/Tweed area as well as Toowoomba and Gympie; or WIN, which has stations in Woolongong and Campbelltown; or Resonate Broadcasting, which owns stations in regional Queensland, but there are not many others. Other possible bidders could have been television networks, but they do not seem to have any appetite for buying one off radio markets at this time.
Will this be the first of a series of radio purchases for the new GSL company? “It is a foundation asset… let’s see if other opportunities come our way,” says Holleran.