Randy Michaels, the former Jacor and Clear Channel executive is coming back.
Not just running a bunch of second tier TV stations (from the New York Times Company) but something even bigger. Who believes Michaels wants to run only TV stations when it seems like he used to run the entire world at Clear Channel.
It pains Michaels when I write about him.
Some of you may remember that he launched a holy jihad against me for not playing nice when I owned Inside Radio. And you know how that worked out --- for him.
Clear Channel unceremoniously removed Michaels from his position of power running their radio stations a few weeks before they announced their acquisition of Inside Radio from me and the mutual dismissal of lawsuits we had filed against each other. I guess Clear Channel thought they were sending Michaels to Siberia to handle Internet initiatives. That's where they sent him -- to the Internet -- little did they know that radio was going to be Siberia not the Internet. Well, Michaels got quieter and quieter as the years went on -- I assume he was being paid to do almost nothing and to remain quiet.
His motto at Jacor was "the noise you can't ignore" and suddenly that noise became a silence -- a silence I believe you should never ignore.
Because, in my judgment, Michaels had a lot of time -- perhaps as many as three or four years to ruminate about Clear Channel, radio and what he wants to do when he grows up.
I mention all of this because it sets the stage for what I'm thinking. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before, but I've also been right especially when I follow my instincts and my instincts tell me Randy is ready to resume making noise with a vengeance.
Randy, like all of us who have enjoyed successful careers in radio, is about validation, invalidation and mostly revalidation. Given the humiliating way in which Michaels went out, it is unlikely his reentry from his perspective can be anything but stunning and I believe it will include payback to Clear Channel. There's no payback in buying a handful of TV stations.
Sam Zell, his mentor from the Jacor days and a man Michaels made even richer, has plenty of money to do it again. Zell sold his real estate holdings for record prices and then reentered broadcasting to buy overpriced TV stations.
I guess I'm believing that Zell, who wouldn't probably know a waiver from a wafer, has Michaels whispering in his ear. "Randyspeak" is back.
I believe that there is no love lost between the Mays' and Michaels. Randy was brought down and silenced. You don't do that to Randy Michaels. He usually does that to you.
So, here's what I'm thinking -- again with the caveat that I am speculating here, but willing to let time tell if I know Randy Michaels well.
After all, it was Michaels who on the first day of my honeymoon back in September of 1998 set fax machines at almost every radio station in the country buzzing with his version of Inside Radio he called "Inside Inside Radio". He didn't care much for my reporting or my independence. The timing of his attack version of my publication is classic Michaels. It's one of many reasons why I'll never marry again (the main one being my wonderful wife). Hell, who wants to get this guy mad.
Then, as head of Clear Channel Radio he really went for the kill suing me and Inside Radio for $100 million. Hey, this doesn't sound like the passive guy we've witnessed the last five years. I counter sued Clear Channel for $125 million. I knew my adversary. In the end Michaels made me rich, even more independent (stay tuned) and gave me the gift of time for a sabbatical to teach the wonderful next generation of college students at USC -- something the daily rigors of publishing would never have allowed.
Hell, I love Randy Michaels now.
That said, he got the shaft from Clear Channel and he didn't deserve it.
I also have great admiration for this man who singlehandedly put together the Clear Channel radio group in spite of his stupid program director tricks. He's an engineer. He knew which stations to buy and where they would fit in for Clear Channel. He didn't buy anything that didn't fit into the plan. And the Mays' did not put Clear Channel Radio together. Michaels did.
I've shared with you personal experiences and insights as a ramp up to what I think Michaels may do.
Remember Randy's "hub and spoke" system of advertising revenue -- the one he tried to install at Clear Channel before his demise? I think he still likes and believes in it. A system of radio, television (ah ha, see where these TV stations may come in) and print -- maybe even Internet to form a marketing platform as powerful as any.
Clear Channel should have listened to him.
I think Michaels will do "hub and spoke" revalidated.
The New York Times TV stations are now called Local TV under Zell/Michaels. And did Michaels hire his long time sidekick Bobby Lawrence -- another radio guy -- just to do TV? And Pam Taylor, yet another trusted Michaels cohort from radio. Was she hired to do TV? Is that the end game?
Look at what Mike Anderson in STL.media wrote:
"It's a new day, a new culture and a new company," says CEO Michaels. "It is always difficult to change a culture, especially one so fundamentally different from ours. But the only way to win in this changing business is to lead the change. There's no question that 'business as usual' has no place at LOCAL. We are the vision you can't ignore."What!
Michaels doesn't even come up with a new motto -- he just adapts the old one from the noise to the vision you can't ignore.
He doesn't change. He's predictable.
I know I may be challenging your belief system right now -- or maybe you're planning a honeymoon and you're frightened, but stay with me.
You need radio stations to do "hub and spoke", right?
Clear Channel isn't about to sell radio stations directly to Michaels. The key word here is directly.
But what about another group buying stations that eventually may wind up in the hands of Michaels and Zell?
Now I have no evidence that this is the case but something like that group of Dean Goodman, Larry Patrick, Eddie Fritts has me wondering. Allow me to speculate further. If you called central casting for a benign bunch to sell things to, wouldn't that be this group. They may well remain operators or spin some stations to others or if my fantasy becomes reality -- sell some or all of them to Michaels and Zell. If not this group, maybe another. You get the picture.
Now all of a sudden that "hub and spoke" is starting to turn once again. And remember, Michaels originally bought the small market stations for Clear Channel, the ones they are now getting rid of. He knows their value and can run them even though Clear Channel can't.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Michaels/Zell buy some print. Good for the "hub and spoke".
I wouldn't even be surprised to see Michaels buy his own radio trade publication as he did at Jacor or start a new one -- after all, the "noise you can't ignore" needs a platform from which to shout. And he's no fool. He'll probably hire a respected industry editor to give him credibility as it documents his emerging empire.
And did I mention that Westwood One is for sale?
And that Sam Zell had been increasing his stake in the company and that rumors have it that Michaels might like to attract a Sean Hannity or even Rush Limbaugh (from his former Premiere Radio Network) to give him a big start to a new radio network.
If I'm half right, this is starting to shape up like Clear Channel 2.0. Better.
Some, if not all of this may be connected, but collectively it has the makings of a perfect surprise attack and you know how much radio's biggest star (next to Mel Karmazin) savors this kind of action.
Welcome back, Randy.
Now get into Internet radio fast before some brash, loudmouth young college kid like you eventually kicks your butt, takes names and lives to brag about it.