The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

04 December 2006

Air America Radio Bankruptcy Sale: Network Bidders

DEFYING THE ODDS

Springer, Other "Progressives" Could Yet Bail Out Air America







*** Exclusive to the Radio Equalizer ***

By Brian Maloney


Would you buy a bankrupt, three- year- old radio network that has already burned through enough cash to make a circa- 1999 Seattle dot-com run by teenagers look downright frugal? How about one that has generated mountains of bad press, is rapidly dropping affiliates and may soon lose its primary star?

Fine, we'll go ahead and scratch your name off the list, but any assumption that others aren't interested in one of broadcasting's biggest- ever boondoggles would be quite mistaken. What are the odds the network can survive?

Given the less- than- rosy outlook for Air America Radio's liberal talk operations, just why would serious buyers emerge, anyway? We can think of only one reason: a stubborn and partisan inability to admit defeat in the ongoing media wars. Beyond a handful of shows, so- called "progressive" talk just hasn't caught on with the public.


For weeks, Air America's remaining executives have been able to convince the network's bankruptcy judge to grant extensions to its court- imposed sale deadline.

Now, your Radio Equalizer has learned that a number of individuals have considered purchasing Air America Radio since its bankruptcy filing was made public. While some will look familiar, others have not had any previous association with the network:


Linda Pritzker: a billionaire Montana- based psychotherapist and Buddhist who is an heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. Now 52, Pritzker is notoriously reclusive, but has emerged in recent years as a major donor to anti- conservative and anti- Bush causes. No known previous Air America Radio ties. Recently, the Pritzkers have made news over their longstanding family row.

Our assessment: we doubt Pritzker is likely to buy Air America.


Joseph E Sarachek: a financial advisor known for turning around distressed companies. That certainly fits Air America, however, we're not sure if he has any previous radio industry experience. His bio provides a tiny clue as to what might have compelled him to show an interest in the network:

Mr. Sarachek holds a Juris Doctor from New York Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Political Science from Cornell University. He grew up in a household where his Mom was a social worker and his Dad was a banker - he looks to provide the best of their skill sets in every deal he does. Mr. Sarachek resides in Scarsdale, New York with his wife and four children. He enjoys cycling, working out, and photography.

Our guess: not interested.


Paresh Patel: a hedge- fund manager who is active in India- based investments. With ties to the Boston area, it is entirely unclear why Patel would be interested, other than possible political sympathies.

Our take: not a chance.


Mike Papantonio: a shameless Florida- based trial lawyer and weekend Air America talk host, he recently appeared in the "Jesus Camp" film. A hard- core ideologue, Papantonio has had very close behind- the- scenes ties to the network's operations almost from the beginning.

Interest level: likely very high, as Mr Papantonio would rather not lose his talk show (or investment in the company!) and has plenty of money. He could team with others to make a bid.


Randy Michaels: a legendary, yet infamous, former Clear Channel titan who has a larger- than- life image. Flush with cash and a recently- formed radio company, Michaels is often rumored to be in the middle of buyout deals, but the speculation is usually proven incorrect.

Odds: see Jerry Springer, below.


Jerry Springer: one of the world's most famous individuals, the TV trashmeister is a former Air America Radio host who would very much like to be known more for politics than chairs flying across his studio stage.

Would he place a bid? He has the money, but would need his old pal Michaels to run things. Randy's probably got bigger fish to fry, but this scenario is still a possibility, given their longstanding ties.


Doug Kreeger: a longtime political activist and former Air America board member who departed in disgust earlier this year, but still maintained some ties to the operation.

Our read: if Air America is to avoid a shutdown, Kreeger is hands- down the most likely person to accomplish this feat. While it is unclear what kind of resources Kreeger has at his disposal, he could very well team up with others (perhaps some of those mentioned above).

Said to be in active negotiations, Kreeger is perhaps the sole reason Air America's bankruptcy court judge has been willing to grant sale deadline extensions. But parties representing the network have asked for too much, hoping to fetch at least $5 million for a company with few assets and $20 million in debts.

Some insiders are claiming that Air America's key value is in its website. That may be true, but it's unlikely to be worth millions. If so, why shouldn't Michelle Malkin's blog be worth twice as much? After all, her Alexa ranking is 7830, while Air America's is well behind at 17398.

And in terms of ad revenue, Air America's website hasn't fared much better than the broadcast network itself.


By Wednesday, we should finally have an answer as to whether the network is saved by Kreeger and others, or whether it shuts down for good. While we don't doubt that there would be interested parties, your Radio Equalizer does question why anyone would want to take on the company's massive debts without some indication that this bird can still fly.


UPDATE: readers report hearing Jerry Springer say on the air today that he is giving up his radio show. Already removed from the network's regular schedule, Springer continued to broadcast until now as a syndicated host that was distributed by Air America Radio. We're not sure how many stations were still carrying him.

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Other People's Money: Pete at IHillary

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25 Comments:

  • Wednesday is unlikely.

    At any rate, perhaps you could use this time to finally provide an explanation as to how the evil George Soros funded Air America, as you've claimed. I know I've been requesting an explanation of this for months, and indeed, am wondering how Mr. Soros' name will be spun into this latest little drama.

    Inquiring minds want to know, Brian.

    Also, what is the connection between Rebbetzin Malky's site and this one? Why on earth would THAT site be your point of comparison to AAR's?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 04 December, 2006 07:28  

  • I have no idea how much AAR's website is worth, but you should not use Alexa rankings to compare such values. Not only has Alexa's methedology been deunked by serious techies, the value of AAR's site would likely be with its membership lists, not with its traffic. Even if Malkin has much higher traffic, she does not have "members." Ask any advertiser, and they'll tell you they prefer a list with direct marketing abilities, than just eyeballs.

    By Blogger Justin, at 04 December, 2006 08:29  

  • Mr. Newt was on C-SPAN yesterday and pointed out that in New England,
    only 1 out of 24 House members is a
    Republican. Blue-est region in the country. If so, why are the ratings for AAR Boston horrible (signal and
    WBUR factor may be a part or is it
    the programming?) In Providence,
    the ratings for WHJJ plummeted with
    a move to AAR and when the plug was pulled the prog. dir. said "The
    Air America Experiment has been a failure".

    They're on very weak signals in
    Vermont, none in NH or RI; and I'm
    not sure how their New Haven
    and Portland (ME) signals do in
    ratings, but if Air America can't
    make it in the blue-est region of
    the country...

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 04 December, 2006 09:51  

  • It wouldn't explain why WABC neocon radio does so well in "lib-rull New York", so obviously other factors are at work....

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 04 December, 2006 11:00  

  • True--the likes of WABC/NY and Boston's conservative talk stations
    might be an "alternative" to disaffected conservatives...
    But if libs/Dems are so prominent
    in Boston area, wouldn't the "amen
    corner" of liberalism be thriving
    on WXKS and WKOX? (Mistakes: weaker
    signals, no DAILY local show...
    and perhaps presence of WBUR/NPR...)

    Local content is important. WRKO
    (conservative), WTKK (conservatives and moderates), and WBZ (moderates)
    all have LOCAL hosts...National shows can be great but you need
    local stuff too, well done.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 04 December, 2006 11:09  

  • Racoon,

    Part of the problem in boston is the lack of local hosts, but the bigger part of the lack of a strong signal. the AAR stations cannot be hard in large parts of the region, including certain boston neighborhoods.

    By Blogger Justin, at 04 December, 2006 12:06  

  • you are looking at this totally the wrong way.

    People who are uber rich aren't buying this for profit, it is to advance their opinions.

    It doesn't matter if it shows a profit, it's just a question of how much they are willing to lose for how long a time. If they manage to make a profit that is a bonus extra.

    This isn't a radio station, its a religion.

    By Blogger Peter, at 04 December, 2006 12:27  

  • I am giddy with anticipation

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 04 December, 2006 13:28  

  • My guess is that AAR didn't do well because:

    (1) The lefist message is already well represented through the tradional big three tlevision networks, newspapers, the so-called "Mainstream Media."

    (2) AAR leaned toward a "progressive" message, which, as it has been used for the past 40 years I've been listening to radio, is consistent with far left "Pacifica" politics similar to that espoused by Pacifica. In fact, Pacifica,, WBAI et al have been calling their brand of politics "progressive" for the 40 years Ive been listening - it is truly weird that many Democrats now use this term.

    Progressive politics is simply not that popular - the progressive radio that existed before AAR has a very tiny audience and relies on public dollars in order to exist.

    In short, AAR was far too to the left to generate a big audience - they would have been better off more in the mainstream.

    (3) But most important - AAR was..is...not very entertaining, it actually pretty bad. People will listen to just about anything if it's entertaining - I've got a two hours of commuting time every day and I'll listen to whatever makes it go faster. AAR was...is...boring, dull. Rush, Hannity etc., even Savage..isn't -

    As for large ratings for conservative talk radio, let face it - there is nowhere else in the media for a conservative to turn other than talk radio and the internet. Also, many conservatives (like me admittedly) for the most part do not think of Fox News as being conservative, just not liberal. Since so many people see this as the only place their views are represented the audience is large.

    By Blogger thinkcon, at 04 December, 2006 14:08  

  • If your station count is dropping nearly daily, then your value is dropping too. Advertisers pay to reach ears, and every pair of ears less is a reduction in what an advertiser will pay.

    Forget about the liabilities thye are not really an issue here. Most of the unsecured creditors will get almost nothing. The secured creditors will either take back their collateral, or willingly take a haircut on their debt with the new guys. Why would they do that, well the collateral may be close to junk if moved, and if they believe the new guys can pay, then the reduced amount is still more than an auction of near worthless junk will bring.

    The usecured creditors will have to get something to willingly vote to go along, but since in liquidation it will be close to zero, it may not take that much.

    But the parties and the judge all have to believe a business plan is now viable. This is the biggest hurdle to get over. I think it unlikely that you can carry the big names with their big time demands and costs and ever convince sober individuals that you can do it so much better than AAR. If that is true, this may soon be converted to Chapter 7 liquidation and the signal go silent.

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 04 December, 2006 16:35  

  • And the moneychangers will have won.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 04 December, 2006 18:34  

  • The Pasty Pudge has yet to explain why his recent comments on Ed Schultz/Al Franken schedule changes edited out the facts that appeared in every media report that Ed is the #10 talker while Ad is the #12 talker (this according to industry publication Talkers magazine).
    Of course we know the reason is that Waddler has been telling his dupes for years now that Air America and related progressive hosts have NO ratings and are failures. So he has no choice to perpetuate his LIE by editing out the talkers rankings in the media reports!
    This is of a piece with right wing talk radio which is nothing more than a giant disinformation operation designed to pump lies into the listening public. Problem is this eventually catches up when you steal an election with these kind of tactics and actually have to govern, but have nothing to offer but destruction and more lies. Hence the US has lost its most priceless possession for the first time in history: our world reputation, which has gone from sterling to...well...picture a morbidly obese, nasty know-nothing Christian conservative and you see what the world sees.

    By Blogger gregrocker, at 04 December, 2006 22:01  

  • Greg - Big Eddie is #10, Franken is #12, and this proves that Equalizer lies when he states that AAR has no ratings?

    First: What is the source of these 'rankings' you quote?

    Second: Do you know how to read an Arbitron book? Are you familiar with the meaning of a sub-1.0 rating? And are you aware that this is the case for better than half of the AAR stations still willing to carry the network?

    By Blogger JD, at 05 December, 2006 01:16  

  • As if that were relevant anyway.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 05 December, 2006 01:35  

  • Johnny Dollar,

    He is citing talkers magazine. Maloney linked to it a few days back. Somewhat misleading in that the magazine groups multiple radio hosts with the same ranking which would push Franken and Schultz further down the list.

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 05 December, 2006 01:42  

  • Actually it was Raw Story

    here

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 05 December, 2006 02:18  

  • "Local content is important. WRKO
    (conservative), WTKK (conservatives and moderates), and WBZ (moderates)
    all have LOCAL hosts...National shows can be great but you need
    local stuff too, well done."

    As you may have read or heard raccoonradio, WRKO basically dumped its newsroom (perhaps thanks to their new Red Sox deal).

    But WBZ gets into talk in the evening, when they aren't airing Boston Bruins hockey. From 5:00 AM-7:00 or 8:00 PM, they are in all-news mode. The only national program they air--the audio feed of 60 Minutes.

    And, I have read Ed Walsh, currently an anchor with BZ's sister station WCBS 880 here in NYC, is coming back to Boston to replace Gary LaPierre. I say coming back because Walsh in the 1970's worked in news for WRKO--during the days when "The Big 68" was a top 40, later Full Service AC music station.

    But as I saw in some of the recent ratings, 'BZ has fallen to 3rd place; urban/hip-hop WJMN has been seen as number 1. Many times, WBZ has been tops.

    And a bit off topic, I've heard CBS4, WBZ-TV, is going to be using those heritage call letters again for their news and/or imaging--true?

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 05 December, 2006 06:21  

  • What I want to know is how in Hell Maloney came up with the friggin' Balfour Boy as a possible angel.

    Did you just pick names square outta yer ass?

    By Blogger TC, at 05 December, 2006 07:23  

  • jd,
    it's worse than that. In the last full book (Spring 2006), only 29 of their 77 stations registered a 1.0 or higher. That's a staggering 62% below the Mendoza line. Furthermore, 17 stations (or 22% of their network) didn't even register AT ALL!

    And since then, ratings have gone down ANOTHER 20% in the latest book.

    gregrocker, how low does AAR have to plummet before we can officialy say that noone is listening?

    By Blogger BF, at 05 December, 2006 08:39  

  • "And since then, ratings have gone down ANOTHER 20% in the latest book."

    And even if that were reflective of the reality to the listener, what is it about the recent changes to the programming that you believe might have accounted for that?

    How might the CURRENT (as opposed to original) management of AAR be held to blame?

    What do you see about the content of the programming that has specifically changed?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 05 December, 2006 10:40  

  • what is it about the recent changes to the programming that you believe might have accounted for that?

    Almost none.

    In Spring 06, AAR was still on WLIB, earning a 1.0 in NYC and having a strong enough signal to reach Nassau (0.6) and Middlesex, NJ (1.0). Now in Fall 06 Part I, AAR is broadcasting on WWRL and earning a 0.6 in the Home Market and not reaching the other 2 at all. Add it up and there's your difference.

    Dumping Malloy and hiring the Young Turks didn't drop the ratings. They didn't do anything to the ratings. Not exactly something they can hang their respective hats on...

    By Blogger BF, at 05 December, 2006 15:54  

  • We're supposed to pretend that these obese pasty rightwing operatives are suddenly objective readers of Arbitron ratings! HILARIOUS! Look, I've been wise to you liars since I was Daddy's Little Republican back in college and attended the Young Republican conventions where the kinda trickery you perpetuate on this very site was taught, in order to put over on the public an agenda that NO CIVILIZED PERSON would agree to. Like how you were going to kill Social Security while claiming to make it safer....rope dumb-as-rocks redneck Jesus Freaks in by gay bashing even as the Little Lords Fauntleroy flopped to the gay orgies at night.

    Everything about you frauds and ESPECIALLY your right wing radio disinformation operation is a complete and utter lie. What you are doing on this site is trying desperately to protect your agitprop from exposure since you know that it can't stand even the slightest scrutiny yet withers and collapses with the first light of day....kinda like the GOP in the last election.

    By Blogger gregrocker, at 06 December, 2006 00:11  

  • While rumors persist that 1/1/07
    will see a new format on Boston's
    AAR stations, they are now conducting a poll on their site as to whom should air at noon, Franken or Schulz (odd
    as Franken may be soon gone, too)--
    so if they're gone in less than a month, why do the poll?

    Meanwhile Donna Halper mentioned on
    Boston-Radio-Interest something about the CC-owned AAR station in LA
    going to Spanish

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 06 December, 2006 03:24  

  • How reassuring to see that talk radio's handlers actually have a cohesive business plan....

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 06 December, 2006 07:57  

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