A group of New Orleans investors is putting in a bid to purchase African American news talk radio station WBOK 1230 AM from Los Angeles based-Bakewell Media.
The partnership led by New Orleans native and actor Wendell Pierce includes Spears Group President and Chief Executive Officer Cleveland Spears III; Henry Consulting Managing Partner Troy Henry; and Thomas Media founder Jeff Thomas.
If the bid is accepted, the group said the acquisition will be financed partially by the four partners and debt-financed through Liberty Bank, making the team 100 percent black-owned and financed.
WBOK's programming is targeted to African American and a wide variety of listeners. Community leaders, including Mayor LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans City Council members, and education and tourism officials, are among frequent guests of the radio station.
The investors said they are dedicated to racial equity and overall long-term growth of New Orleans and are evaluating all aspects of the station's operations and programming.
"It is imperative we do not lose this critical platform that serves as the voice of the African American community," Thomas said. "WBOK provides the city of New Orleans with black discourse without ulterior motives. As black-owned media continues to get absorbed, we must be steadfast in protecting the few platforms we have left."
"Through all the substantial change New Orleans has faced in recent history, WBOK has served as a steadfast and indispensable platform for our community," Pierce said. "The people trust them, they depend on them, and they believe in them. WBOK Radio is the glue that brings and holds our city together."
"The radio format has gone through an evolution in the age of digital consumption," Spears said. "However, it is my vision that this station will always be an indispensable platform for all members of the black community and others to hear the black perspective with well-rounded and thoughtful discourse. This is a vehicle for African Americans in New Orleans to receive information about the news that impacts their day to day lives, and as a black New Orleanian, and a communications professional, I'm immensely proud to be a part of that process."
The group also announced plans to establish a partnership with Xavier University of Louisiana, the only black and Catholic university in the country, and its mass communications department to use WBOK as a learning platform for communications and journalism majors through internship, mentoring and career opportunities.
"We see WBOK as a platform for future generations to learn and grow into their careers as journalists and media professionals in New Orleans," Henry said.
Pierce is known for his roles in Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan," "Suits," HBO dramas "The Wire" and "Treme." Pierce was instrumental after Hurricane Katrina in the revitalization of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood and started a chain of neighborhood stores to increase access to healthy food options. Spears founded marketing and public relations firm the Spears Group in 2008 and is also the founder of the National Fried Chicken Festival, among other events in New Orleans and nationwide. Henry served as president of a Fortune 500 company and now leads a consulting firm. Thomas heads online black news platform Think 504.