Everyone assumes that Merlin will buy WFME? Where is this "magical money" supposed to come from? I can't imagine that there's much positive cash flow from the properties they currently own.
Merlin is backed by a Chicago-based private equity fund GTCR, which invests in companies with "growth potential." It reportedly has about $3.25-Billion to play with. And buying an FM license in a major market like Philly for $22-million is not going to tap them out anytime soon. Not that they are likely to want to put good money after bad, but when you start companies with new ways of doing things to eventually generate growth, you are in it for the long-term, or at least several years. Merlin isn't a year old yet and people like GTCR understand that.
Check out GTCR's website and you'll get an idea of how they think and work: http://www.gtcr.com/
That said, it seems they see the growth opportunity in all-news, and they want to be in as many major markets as possible, likely meaning one station per market. The only reason they have the second Chicago station is that it was part of the three station package they had to buy to get FM frequencies in NYC and Chicago. They probably don't want to be in a music format business, but that could change if they can't find a way to make all news work.
The even bigger bucks new player in the Jersey radio game is Townsquare, which owns NJ-101.5 and clusters in South Jersey.
They didn't exist two years ago, now have about 180 stations, and are backed by Oaktree Capital, which has about $80-billion under management. They could easily buy WFME, as a North Jersey relay for NJ-101.5's Jersey-centric programming. That might work very well for them and they wouldn't have to deal with moving the transmitter to NYC to achieve their goals or reach their target audience.
Under normal economic conditions there might be a slew of companies bidding on a rare NY area FM license, but too many broadcasters are just trying to hold on to what they have got now, and aren't interested in taking on more debt. So, while there are still multiple likely bidders the list is probably a lot shorter than it would have been ten years ago.