Randy's Revenge

The news broke yesterday that entrepreneur Sam Zell -- the founder of the Jacor radio group -- is bringing Randy Michaels back to work for him again when he takes over control of the newspaper and TV Tribune Company.

I predicted this months ago and I added that Randy will likely be involved in radio again -- a prediction I am sticking to.

Randy and I are like hockey players. As a dear friend of mine in the radio industry pointed out to me -- in some ways we're alike. Let's look at it in ice hockey terms. I'm a Flyer. He's now a Blackhawk. We've fought each other over the years but just as they do after each round of the NHL playoffs, we can shake hands.

Randy Michaels is just what the broadcast industry needs right now.

The sooner he gets back to running radio stations -- the better off the industry will be. He's tremendously competent. The Mays could never have put their current cluster platform together without him. He's a combination engineer, geek, programming gorilla and soothsayer. When Michaels was forced out of Clear Channel as the decision-making top exec, Clear Channel started its long farewell. I'm just sayin'.

There is nothing about Sam Zell that says he likes to run small companies. No, he and Michaels have big plans in my view.

What a great time to make a return.

The radio industry is adrift.

One group after the other succumbing to cost-cutting in the hopes of pleasing their investors but instead they have only disappointed their listeners and advertisers. And, they've lost the next generation. Even they know that now.

I think Sam Zell isn't just going to build a TV group and God knows the newspaper business is in worse shape than radio. I think they're getting back into radio.

They can cherry pick the good stuff. There's lots of stations on the markets and the even better ones may become available as the financial noose tightens around the necks of consolidators.

Sam Zell, if he is anything, is predictable.

Zell buys undervalued properties. Can you say radio stations?

If I'm reading them right Zell is ramping up and Randy is his man. He always was.

It's ripe for the taking.

How ironic. Clear Channel would not be in the mess they are in had they kept Michaels at the helm. Clear Channel is no longer a radio group. It's an investment package. The cutbacks are blinding because Lee and Bain are investment specialists. They are looking to cut costs, improve margins and if they're typical of Wall Street -- sell again at a profit.

This doesn't mean Zell won't do the same thing, but it will be a nice ride for those two baby boomers until they're ready to get out.

Now if Zell and Michaels assemble a new platform they will kick the asses of operators looking to take shortcuts. You know, the ones firing sales people right now at a time when they are needed the most.

I know as well as anyone that sometimes you have to wait to be appreciated.

As a former program director let me say this: if I knew Randy Michaels might be coming to a station near mine, I sure wouldn't wait to step it up. It will be too late.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

Randy and Sam are coming back in what may turn out to be sweet revenge.

Yet it is just what this sleepy, lost radio industry needs.

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