Lombardo, Cole Cut Back, But Far From Out

While Phil Lombardo (left) and Ray Cole may be selling most of their Citadel Communications, they’ve still got work to do — running and improving WLNE Providence, R.I., and KLKN Lincoln, Neb., and perhaps using the two to grow another group.

Phil Lombardo may be selling most of Citadel Communications but he’s staying in the TV broadcasting business.

Nexstar Communications announced Monday that, along with its sidecar company Mission Broadcasting, it’s buying all but two of Citadel’s station for $103.25 million.

The deal also cashes Mario Gabelli out of his partnership, via Lynch Entertainment, with Citadel via two stations — WOI, the ABC affiliate in Des Moines (DMA 72) and WHBF, the CBS affiliate in Davenport, Iowa-Rock Island-Moline, Ill. (DMA 100), also known as the Quad Cities metropolitan area.

Those two stations not part of the deal — WLNE, the ABC affiliate in Providence, R.I. (DMA 53), and KLKN, the ABC affiliate in Lincoln, Neb. (DMA 105) — are likely to keep Lombardo and Ray Cole, president and COO of Citadel, busy for quite a while.

Indeed, they could form the nucleus for future acquisitions.

“It was the right time for us to sell,” Cole says. “Phil Lombardo at 78 years of age has to start looking at his exit after 50 years in the business. Mario Gabelli has been a great partner, but it was time for him to mine his investment.”


But Cole says there’s “unfinished business” that he and Lombardo will pursue with  those two remaining stations.

Citadel purchased WLNE in May 2011, not long after it emerged from bankruptcy, Cole notes, and the station is “on a terrific growth curve right now and there are some things Phil and I would like to see through.”

As for KLKN, “It’s a terrific award-winning station but it doesn’t cover the entire market,” Cole says. “We want to expand the footprint of the station across the entire DMA.”

The Nexstar-Citadel deal took “six weeks start to finish,” Cole says, adding that there was no attempt at marketing the group by issuing a “book.”

“We had no interest in an auction,” he says.

As Cole and Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker noted, the Citadel acquisition gives Nexstar a presence in the key swing state of Iowa with two Big Four affiliated stations and the opportunity to tap substantial political revenues from the 2016 presidential election.

Along with owning the two stations, Lombardo and Cole also own a piece of a 24/7 cable news operation in Sarasota, Fla.

“I look forward to staying active in the business but maybe slowing down a little,” Cole says, noting that he’s worked with Lombardo, whom he characterized as his “mentor, partner and friend,” for 38 years.

Looks like that’s 38 years and counting.

Comments (7)

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Jay Miller says:

September 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

These 2 just need to go away and make everybody happy

Tamara Lush & Kyle Hightower says:

September 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

Can someone help me understand why we care about these two characters? They run some of the worst stations in the country when it comes to ratings and revenue, they’re way behind in technology and innovation and run their operations on a shoestring. Yet, they walk around NAB and ABC meetings like they’re industry icons. They honestly have to be two of the worst broadcasters in our industry. From taping 10pm newscasts to avoid overtime and airing paid-programming randomly on weekdays to making staff clear out the studio so Phil can park his Cadillac, Phil and Ray are two of the most ego-driven posers I’ve ever encountered in my 30 years in the business. Seriously…a golf tournament to aggrandize your own name? Why don’t you take some of that money and pay your people a living wage? Seriously…what good have these two guys done?

    Brad Dann says:

    September 18, 2013 at 11:34 am

    AMEN! but next time tell us what you really think

    Joanne McDonald says:

    September 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    My own personal comment about KLKN is posted at:


    Both Phillip Lombardo with KLKN and WLNE and Harry Pappas with KHGI/KWNB(aka Nebraska Television Network) each own different ABC stations. I even mention present day KLKN’s past history for readers to see. Lucky KLKN and KHGI/KWNB would never preempt too much ABC network programming for dumb stupid informercials like on Sinclair’s owned KDNL ABC 30 over in Saint Louis.

    The users and blogger can forgive me for ranting and wanting to post the same comment over and over again.

Jay Miller says:

September 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I agree with Mister Sunshine. These 2 characters need to go away and take their $$ with them and never return,because it seems that’s all these 2 have ever cared about at the expense of their employees and communities

John McElfresh says:

September 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I can honestly say I have never met a person that I thoght less of than Cole. And from the comments, I’m not alone. I once visited one of those stations and almost broke my leg falling through the rotten ply wood in the control room. Cheap does not begin to discribe how they manage their properties. There is frugall and smart, then there are these two micro managers that cout the toilet paper usage and deligate the GM to keeping up with how many sheets each employee uses. I think at last check it was no more than 3.5 sheets per BM.

Paul Escobar says:

September 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm

It is a sad day when being bought by Nexstar is a step up.

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