The wealthy Liberman family of LBI (Liberman Broadcasting Inc.), which traces its roots via Poland and Latin America back to pre-1492 Muslim Spain was involved in one of the funnier affirmative action stories when they obtained a tax break for being Hispanic. Dan Seligman recounted in Fortune in 1981:
“It seems that Storer [Broadcasting] sold an AM radio station in Los Angeles to a company owned by a family named Liberman. After the sale, Storer and the Libermans asked the FCC to grant the certificate that makes the tax advantage possible. Their contention was that the Libermans were a minority family. In acceding to this argument the other day, the FCC noted that they ‘are regarded by both themselves and their community as being Hispanic,’ to which the commission added: ‘The Liberman family is descended from Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. Although Adolfo Liberman was born in Poland, the language spoken in his home during childhood was Castilian Spanish…’”
The tax break for diversitizing the ownership of radio stations went to the sellers, Storer, but it was presumably baked into a lower price paid by the buyers, Liberman.
When the GOP got control of the House in 1994, everybody assumed they were going to roll back affirmative action, but what with one thing and another, they only got around to chopping this ethnic tax break for people who own radio and television stations.
Somehow, though, the Libermans soldiered on, but have hit a snag in 2018. From Media Confidential:
LBI Media Inc., the nation’s largest private minority-owned Spanish language TV and radio broadcaster filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, blaming its woes on competition from digital media platforms and a heavy debt load. …
LBI Media was founded in 1987 by Lenard Liberman, chief executive officer of the company, and his father Jose Liberman, both immigrants from Mexico.
The company roots go back to the purchase of two unprofitable radio stations, which the Libermans converted to Spanish-language format. After replicating that strategy around the country, LBI now has TV and radio stations in most cities — including Los Angeles, Dallas New York — with big Spanish-language audiences. LBI also produces its own programing and operates a TV studio in Burbank.
Like other radio and TV broadcasters, LBI’s advertising revenues took a big hit during the 2008 financial crisis and never recovered. LBI’s earnings reached a peak of $48 million in 2006 but fell to $19 million by 2012. Last year the company brought in $31 million — well short of the company’s $47 million annual interest burden, according to court filings.
It’s interesting how the prices for Spanish-language media properties in the U.S. peaked during the Housing Bubble: e.g., Jerry Perenchio sold Univision at the top of the market in 2006 to a Haim Saban-led consortium for a huge $13.7 billion.