Former Macquarie MD Rob Lowenthal brought in to handle 2CH sale as bidders line up

2CHBidders have started lining up in the sale of Macquarie Radio Network station 2CH, with the company’s former managing director Rob Lowenthal handling the process, Mumbrella can reveal.

The network is required to relinquish the licence for the Sydney easy listening station which is targeted at an older demographic if its planned merger with Fairfax Radio Network gets the green light.

Lowenthal “resigned” from the network last March, a year after a stoush with leading presenter Ray Hadley over his treatment of a junior staff member.

Potential bidders for the station are thought to include a player from the NSW clubs industry and Grant Broadcasters which owns dozens of regional stations across the country. Another name being floated is retail giant Gerry Harvey, a close friend of Macquarie owner John Singleton.

Macquarie Radio Network chairman Russell Tate confirmed the sales process has kicked off with “four or five” interested parties, but played down rumours they are asking $10m for the station, stressing at this stage they are only receiving expressions of interest.

He also said “at least one” of those parties had expressed an interest in Macquarie continuing to operate the station under the new ownership.



“In the last few years we’ve operated 2GB and 2CH as one entity, so it wouldn’t be hard for us to do,” he said. However he stressed they would have to prove the new owner was “independent” and get regulatory approval for that to happen.

That kind of deal could also including renting out studio space or around sales staffing, he added.

The merger between Fairfax and Macquarie is being scrutinised by both the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), and needs to be signed off by the regulators before it can move ahead.

Regulations state a broadcaster cannot hold more than two licenses in any city, with Fairfax running 2UE while rival 2GB belongs to Macquarie, along with 2CH.

Tate said he is “confident” it will be approved, but said they would also have to get permission from the regulator to continue to operate 2CH for another six to nine months before the sales process would be completed.

2CH was bought in 1994 from the NSW Council of Churches, and under the agreement the station is requiring it to play religious programming on Sundays and turn away certain types of advertising, although Tate said these conditions were not “onerous”.

Today Macquarie issued a profit warning to the Australian Securities Exchange, saying it expects to post a profit downgrade of 65 per cent in its half yearly results in mid-February.

Tate admitted that whilst revenues had increased a number of factors had hit the bottom line, including the merger, which he said was making it “very hard to forecast what will happen this year” until it is resolved.

However, he said the two networks are continuing to hold preliminary planning meetings over potential content and strategies, for when a decision has been made, pointing to 2GB Breakfast host Alan Jones taking to the air on Fairfax’s Brisbane station 2BC as the kind of thing which could be expected in the future.

Alex Hayes


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