What Citadel Could Learn From Paul Harvey

Look, I know Paul Harvey is old.

He is a remarkable throwback to another generation – a style still appreciated today on many stations but out of sync with new age talk programming (WLW in Cincinnati reluctantly opted to drop Harvey for similar reasons).

The man is an icon – still gets consistent ratings and still earns Citadel – the company that bought but has since shamed ABC Radio – lots of money.

Paul Harvey’s contract is up soon and he had previously let it be known that he is not ready to hang up his microphone.

Citadel apparently does nothing to re-sign him.

Harvey’s wife of many, many years (and one-time contributor to his shows), Angel, died of leukemia in the past month.

Citadel does nothing to re-sign him – a comforting and appropriate gesture he has earned. Is that going to break the bank?

But Citadel CEO Farid Suleman doesn’t have stars in his eyes. He sees only dollar signs. What could he save if Harvey wasn’t replaced? Don’t think that hasn’t occurred to this boy wonder.

These days there are fewer dollar signs for Citadel which is precisely why its stock is in the toilet – around $1.70 a share when it closed Monday.

ABC took care of Paul Harvey and in fact spent the last 20 or more years trying to find a suitable replacement for him when the inevitable day finally arrived.

They couldn't find the next Paul Harvey. Even Harvey’s son, Paul, Jr., knows he’s not his dad – although an able newsman and outstanding writer.

The Paul Harvey tragedy is symptomatic of how FaGreed Suleman is gutting Citadel like a dead fish.

Too many firings of talented people that would lead one to think Suleman still needs to turn around his $1.70 a share company. And more firings likely on the way as FaGreed takes his money ($11 million last year) and runs.

Suleman is the genius who recently said he’s considering cutting salespeople because as much as half of Citadel’s business comes to them automatically – no need to pay commissions.

This is the sign of a really out of touch CEO.

No, the business will not come to you. You go get it – as in relationship selling. Radio is not Google.

This is part and parcel of radio’s silly notion that things like Google’s AdSense (that I call AdNonense) will eventually let radio advertising sell itself and save the greedy few from paying sales commissions.

If the CEOs who brought you consolidation could point to even one thing that they’ve done in the past 12 years to keep radio as viable as it was in 1996, maybe we’d listen.

Automated radio sales?

Fewer salespeople?

Only a bean counter could get off on that – and that’s where I ask – where does FaGreed Suleman get off thinking you gut the fish to help it live another day.

The only analogy I can think of that has to do with fish as it pertains to Citadel is “the fish stinks from the head”.

Back to Paul Harvey and the lessons his handling should teach his CEO.

1. Have the class Paul Harvey has. Appreciate the experience. Work hard and reward people who make your company money. It sends a powerful message that you’re committed to people who get the job done for you. I know Paul Harvey’s act may be getting old for some programmers but he still has a large market. Be his syndicator. Part with the money. And may Paul Harvey live to be 100 while still doing his newscast. FaGreed: give him a lifetime contract. NBC gave one to Johnny Carson just in case he wanted to come back. Show some class.

2. Loyalty matters. Paul Harvey can boast the largest radio audience as a 90 year old because he has been loyal to both his listeners and employer and the listeners and advertisers have returned their loyalty to him. Take another lesson from Paul Harvey: show some loyalty to someone other than the man who put you into your job – Teddy Forstmann.

3. ABC is not an inconvenience – it’s an asset, remember? You’re the one who wanted to own ABC so badly. You were wrong. It drove Citadel shares down. ABC pulled one over on you, FaGreed. You don’t know how to run it now that you own ABC. But it is nonetheless an asset loaded with talented people who know more than you do. You’re making former ABC Radio head John Hare look like Warren Buffett. Value ABC and the potential it can bring if you let ABC people run it.

4. Nothing succeeds like success so reward good ratings, good billing and good management company-wide. Name a company that realized its full potential at the hands of a chainsaw massacre. Years ago Sunbeam appliances hired a cost-cutter who ruined Scott Paper Company – a guy the business press dubbed Chainsaw Al Dunlap. He failed. You build up, not tear down your assets.

Oh, one more thing.

Learn from Paul Harvey when he closes each show in his inimitable way – “Paul Harvey (big pause) – Good Day! (with his voice rising at the end).

Make your sign off:

Farid Suleman (short pause), Good Bye!

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