Soros fund is building an audio empire

April 7, 2024

Max Tani

George Soros thinks it’s good business, and perhaps good politics, to be in your ears.

Over the last two years, Soros Fund Management, the firm founded by the billionaire investor and now controlled by the Open Society Foundations, has become an increasingly key player in the oldest electronic mass media: radio.

In February, the company became the largest shareholder in Audacy, the bankrupt second-largest radio company in the U.S., with more than 230 U.S. stations and a podcast arm that includes Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Studios. In 2022, Soros invested an undisclosed amount in Crooked Media, the liberal podcast network behind the ultra-popular Pod Save America. And a Soros-backed firm played a crucial role in Univision’s $60 million sale in 2022 of 18 Hispanic radio stations to a new firm run by veterans of Democratic politics. The deal, which included conservative Cuban powerhouse broadcasters in Miami, drew opposition from Republican members of Congress.

The move into the troubled radio business could be the beginning of a bigger audio buying spree, three people who have been involved in discussions with Soros executives said.

The fund has also privately discussed acquiring other major radio companies, such as the limping, publicly traded Cumulus Media. (Regulations limiting ownership of radio stations put limits on such mergers.)

The fund’s lead media investor, Michael Del Nin, met with a number of major figures in digital media and audio over the last year, including the podcast company Project Brazen. It has also eyed several potential companies for acquisition, including Pushkin Industries, the podcast company from Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg, and Lemonada, the network best known for its interview show hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, people familiar with the conversations said. Another podcast industry insider told Semafor that Lemonada is in the midst of a formal process to find a buyer, but that some potential suitors have balked at its high asking price.