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Adios Disney, hello ESPN: Union Broadcasting near deal to acquire Louisville radio station

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Louisville sports nuts, you now have the piece you’ve been missing for 24-hour sports obsession – all-sports local AM radio.

A group of executives and investors in Union Broadcasting Inc. is close to closing a deal to buy WDRD 680 AM from The Walt Disney Company.

Until October, 680 AM had been Radio Disney, the Los Angeles-based entertainment megalith’s Louisville station for all things Jonas Brothers, Demi Levato and other Disney-brand acts. But Disney has all its radio stations across the United States for sale except for the largest metro markets.

On Monday, insiders in Kansas City told Insider Louisville that Union Broadcasting is close to finalizing a deal to purchase AM 680.

Which is not completely accurate, said Jason Justice, Union Broadcasting operations director.

Some of the same investors who own own the Shawnee Mission, Ks.-based company (outside Kansas City) also are investors in U.B. Louisville LLC, which is buying WDRD, Justice said.

“It’s a done deal from where we stand, as far as we and Disney are concerned,” he said. Justice said he expects it will take Federal Communication Commission officials from two weeks to six months sign off on the deal, which would be the Union Broadcasting investors’ first acquisition outside Kansas City.

Those investors include Chad Boeger, 38 Union Broadcasting president. Justice declined to say if U.B. Louisville LLC is the initial step toward Union Broadcasting owning Louisville properties: “A lot of things are on the table.”

But he noted that the Union Broadcasting proxy deal is indicative of where the communications industry is going – toward small, privately held companies such as his and away from the market domination of giant publicly traded chains such as Clear Channel Communications Inc. in the 1980s and 1990s.

To the chagrin of Louisville’s pre-teens, WDRD 680 already has been reformatted into a sports-only station in the mold of Union Broadcasting’s flagship station, WHB Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City.

WHB has the third strongest AM signal in the United States, Justice said.

The company also owns KCTC, 510 AM, a talk-only station that carries both sports and conservative talkers such as “comedian” Dennis Miller.

In addition to local sports-talk shows, WHB carries ESPN game coverage and post-game talk. (Okay, we’re way out of our depths here, talking about sports. But we can read their website.)

That’s essentially the same deal for WDRD. With ESPN and Westwood One satellite programing, the station will carry NFL games, college basketball and 2011 March Madness Division One basketball playoffs, Justice said.

Regular programming includes the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” from ESPN, as well as a local talk show with Jason Anderson.

Justice declined to give the value of the deal.

He added that when Union Communications started WHB , built on college sports coverage, “everyone told us we were nuts! At the time (in 1998,) people thought college sports were minor league.

“But, we’ve done very, very well in Kansas City.”

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