Monday, January 29, 2007

Big Changes are in the Works at Air America Radio.

Last updated, January 29, 3:30 pm pst, (changes set in bold type)

Two developments today will, no doubt, radically change the structure of liberal talk radio in general and Air America Radio in particular.

The first change involves the ownership of the bankrupt lib talk network. It is reported by numerous sources that Stephen L. Green (see photo right), a New York City real estate developer, has agreed to terms with the owners of AAR, Piquant LLC, to purchase the assets (and the debts) of the struggling network. Terms of the deal have not been released.

Upon entering into the Letter of Intent, Green provided funds to Democracy Allies LLC, which has been funding Air America during the bankruptcy proceeding and which will continue to fund the company as it prepares a definitive purchase agreement for submission to the Bankruptcy Court.

Green’s investment company, SL Green Realty Corporation, is the biggest owner of commercial real estate in New York. The company owns and operates a premier portfolio of commercial office buildings --29 in Midtown Manhattan offering over 17 million square feet of office space. It has established a consistent track record of producing industry-leading returns while creating long-term value for its shareholders.

In a press release by AAR announcing the sale, Green said that he bought AAR "because I'm a businessman who enjoys creating and growing companies."

"I'm purchasing a majority ownership in Air America with the intention of making it a successful business that returns a profit," he said. "To assure that AAR survives and thrives, we'll do three things. First, we'll stabilize its finances. Second, we'll build on its lineup to assure the best radio talent possible, since in the long run content is king. And third, we'll extend this special brand by partnering with other platforms beyond radio to make sure that the network’s content reaches the wide audience it deserves."
The press release also includes a statement by Mark Green, who will clearly take an active role in AAR's new management.

"Having been involved on both sides of the microphone at Air America," Mark Green said. "I understand its huge potential as a voice for progressive patriotism. And with the Democratic take-over of the 110th Congress and prospects in the next presidential election, it's the perfect time for Air America 2.0. If progressive values were a stock, now is the time to buy."

His better known brother, Mark Green, (see photo left) is active in liberal politics in New York City and has been a frequent guest on several AAR talk shows. He has also sat in occasionally as guest host on David Bender’s Politically Direct show. Mark Green is a smart and articulate pol and could make a good talk host – although nothing has been announced relative to this at this time. The deal will not be consummated until a bankruptcy court in New York approves it.

In a separate announcement today, AAR’s top rated morning host Al Franken has finally confirmed after weeks of dodging questions, that he will be leaving the network on February 14th. However, while most people think that Franken will launch a campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, currently occupied by Norm Coleman (Rep-MN), the soon to be former AAR talker would offer no comment.

There is no doubt that the sale of AAR and departure of Franken will radically change lib talk. AAR talkers account for over half of all time on the just over 100 stations that offer two or more daily lib talkers. About 75 of these stations are considered to be AAR affiliates and rely on the network not only for programming, but for marketing and affiliate support.

It was also announced that Franken’s coveted slot, will be taken over by Thom Hartmann. Hartmann known as the "iron man" of talk radio because he does two daily three hour shows (one, a local show on KPOJ in Portland, OR and the other a nationally syndicated show.) could be just a fill-in until AAR finds another "star" to fill this important slot.

The AAR bankruptcy was an ugly event. When AAR filed for bankruptcy in November, it disclosed assets of $4 million and liabilities of over $20 (half of that is owed to Rob Glaser, former AAR CEO).
It is clear that the AAR business model did not work. High salaries paid to the network’s stars like Al Franken and former host, Jeaneane Garofalo, huge production budgets, a suite of offices in New York City, and bloated staff, posed a recipe for disaster.

Other companies like Premiere Radio which syndicates Rush Limbaugh and Jones Radio which syndicates Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, and Bill Press, have a much leaner and more efficient operational structures. No details have been released, at this time, regarding how the sale of
AAR will effect network operation.

Stay tuned

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