The Noise You Can't Hear Yet

Call me suspicious, but the Clear Channel buyout is supposed to close shortly and Randy Michaels keeps hiring more radio people for the television and newspaper business.

What's a person to believe?

There are a lot of funny things about the Lee and Bain $29 billion Clear Channel bailout starting with the price.

That price was determined over a year ago and since then the radio business has continued to tank on every level including local and national sales and share price. Still, these folks at Lee and Bain have not asked for the usual renegotiation to obtain a more reasonable price. What's up with that?

Dumb or smart like a fox?

Shareholders have gone along with this long national nightmare. Their Clear Channel stock had dipped to below $29 as arbitragers were buying the hell out of it because the sale price is $39. It was up to $36.10 at the closing yesterday. This deal is going to happen.

Meanwhile, Sam Zell's main operator, Randy Michaels hired another good radio man to work in the television and newspaper business. Go figure. Lee Abrams is leaving XM Satellite after a long career there to join Randy in Lee's hometown of Chicago. Lee is a friend and an excellent programmer. He'll be chief innovation officer for Randy. Too bad he's not going to program any radio stations. Maybe Lee can manage the Chicago Cubs.

Abrams. Frank Wood. Bobby Lawrence and some lesser players from his Jacor days have rejoined Randy's noise you can't ignore.

It could be that Michaels is comfortable with the people he knows. And that radio people make good executives in other business, too -- something I write about all the time. If so, Michaels is just hiring good people.

On the other hand, this is still Randy Michaels -- new age TV and newspaper executive.

I've written before how I believe there will somehow be a connection between the sale of the Clear Channel stations to Lee and Bain and Zell and Michaels. I admit it's speculation but I'm going to air it again.

Lee and Bain are not operators. If radio consolidators -- the ones who supposedly know this business -- can't run their groups to reflect shareholder value how will Lee and Bain do it.

I don't think they can. And their game plan will be what you would expect from takeover specialists -- build it up and sell it off or cut the size and build up the retained assets.

Part or most of the Clear Channel stations -- the ones Michaels put together for the Mays family -- could return to Michaels who will then build a radio group and interactive platform to show those Texans how to make money again.

Or maybe I've underestimated the magnetic and powerful lure of the newspaper business. Ya think?

This is the calm before the storm. The noise you can't hear yet -- to bend Michaels often used motto.

Whether Zell and Michaels get the Clear Channel stations they want or not it's hard to believe they won't add radio into their mix and show everyone where they left off.

God forbid if Lee and Bain keep the Clear Channel stations -- especially if you work at one now. Lee and Bain would have a death wish. I think they are smarter than that.

And I don't think major radio talent has to work in the newspaper business when one of the most prolific radio programmers of modern times has returned from the dead.

Stop the presses!

Something is up.

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