The Next Clear Channel

Look at all this talent -- in one place.

Randy Michaels. Bobby Lawrence. Frank Wood. Lee Abrams. Jerry Kersting. Mark Chase. Steve Gable. The last three stolen away from Clear Channel late last week.

It's the best radio team that doesn't have any radio stations (except WGN).

Sam Zell and Randy Michaels are sly foxes. Zell owns newspapers (what a dying business) and TV stations (ouch) and very little radio.

I know I always say radio people are good enough to do many things other than radio, but maybe those of you out there who have had problems believing me about what I think Zell/Michaels are up to will now reconsider.

These guys are going to go into the -- duh -- radio business.

Kersting is a deal maker. He worked with Michaels putting together Jacor then parts of Clear Channel. He's a trusted and smart piece of the puzzle. Could he buy newspapers? Of course. But I'm betting that's not why he was lured away from Clear Channel.

You may recall I've been saying that I see Randy and Zell getting back into radio as part of a new age media platform.

First you have to understand Zell.

What's not to understand? He's smart as can be and he doesn't pay full price. He's wacky and he's worked with Michaels before where Randy build Jacor and made Zell a lot of money. That's all you need to know.

Then there's Randy. A very complex and talented guy. I know him from a number of different angles -- most good, some bad. If radio could be saved, he'd be the guy to save it. But I think he's also motivated by revenge -- that's my opinion for what it's worth.

Revenge for what Clear Channel did to him. Cut his wings, removed him from power (about the time I sold Inside Radio to Clear Channel) and sent him to an office where he picked up a check and remained quiet. I understand the drill. I had a non-compete myself so those four years were my missing years as well. I went on a teaching sabbatical. I'm sure Randy was plotting his comeback. Who can blame Randy for wanting revenge.

But I think for Randy -- a radio executive, the colorful type we used to call program directors -- it is only a matter of time before he and Zell have plenty of great properties to work their magic on.

When the banks derailed the Clear Channel sale I believe it slowed down a possible sale of some Clear Channel stations by Lee and Bain to Zell. Lee and Bain sure didn't try to renegotiate the sale price even when the radio industry tanked. It's almost like they knew what they were doing and had all the pieces in place -- why upset the deal? The banks apparently didn't agree.

The Mays' want out. Their worst nightmare, in my opinion, is having to run a radio group now. Their employees worst nightmare is having to work for people whose worst nightmare is running a radio group. The Mayses getting out one way or the other.

If they can force the banks to fund the Lee and Bain bailout, that's one way. It's not a done deal even after winning a few early court rulings in their home state of Texas -- Texas justice, I suppose.

They can always swallow their pride and sell to the guy they demoted and embarrassed by sending him to radio's equivalent of Siberia -- the Internet office.

So, the Mayses are not operators.

Lee and Bain may or may not be the buyout middlemen.

And Randy Michaels is loading up on key and trusted radio people he has successfully worked with before to run newspapers and TV stations.

Make sense?

The next big media conglomerate is a gleam in the eyes of Randy Michaels and Sam Zell right now -- and using pieces of the old Clear Channel they will build the next Clear Channel.

Michaels' motto has been "the noise you can't ignore".

For being "the noise you can't ignore" he's sure quiet.

Unless, of course, you can look to the other side of silence and let his actions speak louder than words. He's hiring the boys you can't ignore. The ones he trusts. The ones he has succeeded with. Radio people.

The Clear Channel debacle is not about the banks screwing Clear Channel. It's about the screwing Clear Channel is about to get from an ex-employee who has forgotten more about radio than the entire Mays family ever knew.

Don't fret.

As compensation, Clear Channel will be paid for whatever stations they might contribute to the new Zell/Michaels entity -- probably for less than they paid for them.

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