Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Radio: Shuttlin' off to Chicago
I was wondering when Clear Channel would try to shut down the recently inaugurated transport service that’s been shuttling their former employees from the 200 East Basse Road funplex in San Antonio to their new Tribune Corp. home at 435 North Michigan Avenue in that toddlin’ town – Chicago.
Since his master Sam took control of the troubled Trib, shepherd Benjamin Homel, known to most by his stage name Randy Michaels, has been summoning his sheeple to the gates of Zell.
Imagine how the Mays family feels. The guys that busted their company are still bustin’ their chops.
It was inevitable that the jilted Mays family would launch a counterattack.
I’ll bet it was triggered by that press release Michaels and Zell sent out that read, in part: “Tribune announces executive appointments and, amazingly, only one is connected to Clear Channel Communications.”
Clear Channel took a break from writing $750,000 in checks for lobbyists to influence peddle Congress to sue; accusing Tribune Corp. of unfair competition and misappropriating trade secrets.
Stop right there. Clear Channel claiming “unfair competition?” I’ll pause for a chuckle.
It would’ve been more convincing to claim that Zell and Michaels have a secret cabal conspiring to destroy Clear Channel Communications.
Clear Channel alleges that when its interactive director Andrew Friedman accepted the position of vice president of Tribune’s interactive division, he took sensitive trade secrets with him.
Now, San Antonio’s seething and played the “if we can’t have you no one can” card by evoking an exclusivity clause and seeking a temporary injunction to keep Friedman from working for Tribune until the end of the year.
“Clear Channel will not tolerate the Tribune’s interference with valuable business contracts belonging to our company and intends to pursue all legal remedies available to put a stop to it,” stated Andy Levin - his title of importance being executive vice-president and chief legal officer at Clear Channel.
Come on, now. Isn’t it a little implausible to believe that any former Clear Channel executive – still loyal to Randy Michaels after all these years – would willingly steal trade secrets from Clear Channel? I’ll pause for another chuckle.
Trade secrets? Maybe Michaels and Zell want to know what Clear Channel has doing for the past couple of years to make sure they never make the same mistakes.
Naw, that can’t be it. Most of the blunders made by Clear Channel were initially architected by Michaels.
Hub and spoke. Buy it now and figure out what to do with it later. Need I continue?
In fact, Michaels is recycling and remodeling his old and dated Clear Channel slogans, including “the TV you can’t ignore” (for Clear Channel radio it was “noise”) on Tribune’s recently renamed “superstation” WGN (now called WGN/America).
How about that new WGN logo? Original, huh? Total Recall 2070 anyone?
He should've called it Power Pig.
Let’s be pragmatic here. Trade secrets from Clear Channel aren’t even in the same universe as a single smuggled Whole Foods shopping list from Steve Jobs.
There was that epigrammatic Randy Michaels phase when Clear Channel seemed to be a very big and a very happy family, until the real family, which spells its name with four letters, reviewed expenses and, among other things, learned that Michaels had charged back the company for his excessive use of a private plane charter. Even better, Michaels chartered the plane from his own leasing company, Radioactive. You can’t beat paying yourself for a free ride.
Flying from one Rolling Stones concert to another to hold court? Of course that was business.
It wasn’t long after that revelation that the Mays family banished Michaels to the bowels of the Clear Channel until his deal was terminated.
Then Clear Channel relocated the radio division headquarters from Covington, Kentucky, where Michaels convinced them radio’s home should be, to the death star mothership in San Antonio.
That’s when it the fun stopped.
Now, the flock is bolting for the little reasons that mean so much.
They miss the good old days when the press releases and staff memos were laced with Animal House double entendre missives – not to mention receiving those never-ending in-house dirty joke e-mails blasts from Michaels.
After Michaels was tossed, John Hogan’s prose took over. It was so bad that that when Clear Channel put together their privatization plan, BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee sent a team to San Antonio to redraft his memos.
Don’t believe me? Ever read the “less is more” memo and the memo defending it that followed?
Actually, uniquely composed memos have already made a comeback under Michaels and Zell.
The continual batch Tribune innovation director Lee Abrams is churning out to the staff has already earned him his own page in Gawker.com. Abrams personifies where the Trib is headed. You guessed it. Just like AOR.
Let’s be fair. Those Clear Channel meetings just aren’t as mean spirited as the used to be, The good ol’ Michaels boys used to have fun visiting recently acquired properties to size up who’d survive the purge based on what jokes they laughed at.
The sheeple missed those meeting in Covington where they’d hire strippers to liven them up. And Randy knew how to always crack ‘em up by wearing that the rubber penis around his neck.
Now, I’m no prude, mind you. I would’ve laughed at it, too, when I was 12 years old.
Randy’s rebels can’t wait for the next Newspaper Association of America conference when the staff of the Chicago Tribune will carry Michaels like a Pharaoh into the room – or when he walks into a meeting in his underwear, and soaks Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. with his high-powered Speed Shark motorized water gun.
I think it would make for great entertainment to lock Mark Mays and Randy Michaels together in a conference room and see who comes out alive.
People migrate. There’s been a similar, far more publicized exodus of former Google execs to Facebook. Those in control at the Googleplex aren’t fluttering around like cat-scared birds.
And unlike Clear Channel and Tribune, Google and Facebook are inventive and flourishing companies.
I don’t see what the big deal is with Clear Channel’s concern over losing a few more employees.
If they want to go, let ‘em. And wish them well on their “future endeavors.”
Clear Channel’s already fired hundreds of creative and talented employees. Those still under their employ – and holding what’s left of the joint together - are being treated as slave labor by San Antonio.
Eventually, Clear Channel will end up flushing everything but their toilets. That way, when it’s all over they can look back on their broadcasting history to see what they accomplished.
We can all agree on one thing. Randy Michaels at Tribune will do for newspapers and TV what he did for radio at Clear Channel.