Miami’s Radio Mambi part of sale to new media startup

Radio personalities Oscar Haza, left, and Armando Perez Roura discuss the days events on a Radio Mambi radio show on July 4, 2012, at Univision Radio Studios in Miami, along with Ninoska Perez Castell.

el Nuevo Herald file photo

Two Latina entrepreneurs — backed by a slew of investors — have negotiated a $60 million deal with TelevisaUnivision to buy 18 Spanish-language radio stations across 10 U.S. cities, including Miami’s Radio Mambi, a fixture of South Florida’s conservative Cuban community.

The massive buy is the first for the newly created Latino Media Network, a Latina-owned and operated media company that has raised close to $80 million, a figure the group says amounts to the largest capital raised by a Latina-led startup in U.S. history.

“With minority media on the decline, now is the time to be investing in more resources to create content for Latinos by Latinos,” said co-founder Stephanie Valencia, chair of LMN’s board.

Valencia, who worked at the White House under former President Barack Obama as a special assistant to the president and principal deputy director of public engagement, is launching Latino Media Network along with Jess Morales Rocketto, the former director of civic engagement for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. They are both in the leadership of Equis Research, a polling firm focused on outreach and civic engagement of U.S. Latinos.

In Equis’ own research, Valencia said, the vast majority of Latinos in the U.S. have moved to YouTube as their main source of information, feeding off of polarizing and highly influential information. So when TelevisaUnivision publicized its intentions to sell the radio stations, Valencia and Morales Rocketto jumped at the opportunity to keep them in the hands of Latino owners.

“Our understanding is that they were considering non-Hispanic buyers,” Valencia said. “That’s the impetus more broadly.”

Their startup has a mixed group of well-known investors and board members, including actor and activist Eva Longoria, veteran TV anchor Maria Elena Salinas, and Al Cárdenas, former longtime chair of the Republican Party of Florida and board member of the American Business Immigration Coalition.

The newly created group’s buying of Radio Mambi, a conservative-leaning Miami radio station that was at the center of reports on disinformation ahead of the 2020 election, is also a big shift for the local Spanish-language media market. And the group’s creation trails the recent launching of Americano Media, a Spanish-language news startup that caters to right-leaning Latinos at the national level.

It also follows recent steps from Democrats to escalate efforts against political disinformation in Spanish originating in South Florida — efforts that Republicans say is censorship of conservative commentators — particularly after the public dispute over the dismissal of a liberal radio host from Miami’s Radio Caracol in 2021.

While both parties have agreed on the terms of the deal, the Federal Communications Commission still has to approve the sale, a process that could take from several weeks to months. And Latino Media Network, as a new company, still hasn’t hired an entire leadership team. Valencia says this makes any personnel changes unlikely to happen for at least another year.

But Valencia said her company understands Mambi’s particular role in the Cuban American exile community, including the station’s support and advocacy for a free Cuba.

“We absolutely acknowledge that and understand that, and want that to continue to be the case,” Valencia said. “For us, whether it’s Mambi or any of the other stations, we believe there should be journalistic integrity and balance.”

The acquisition includes AM and FM stations in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Houston, Fresno, and McAllen, Texas.

This story was originally published June 3, 2022 6:40 PM.

Bianca Padró Ocasio is a political writer for the Miami Herald. She has been a Florida journalist for four years, covering everything from crime and courts to hurricanes and politics.

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