Don Imus, Ronn Owens & Chicago; Yes They’re All Connected

Cumulus Media Westwood One Mary BernerIn his statement today announcing the coming end of the Imus In The Morning show, Don Imus clearly stated why the move happened and why he won’t be the only Cumulus employee or station effected.

“The company Cumulus, because my contract runs out in December of this year. At which point I was going to stop doing Imus In The Morning. I was going to stop doing it on December 2, 2018. Somewhere in that area. But they began to talk to me and the lawyers about; as long as I wasn’t going to be with the station past that what would be the point of paying me millions of dollars when they can save that. So we tried to make some sort of deal.. (gibberish).

So they declared bankruptcy. Well when they declared bankruptcy then they don’t have to pay anybody including me. They declared bankruptcy not the fault of the people currently running the company. The people currently running the company are going to straighten it out I believe. Mary Berner I think is brilliant. If you got Readers Digest straightened out you can straighten out anything. Mike McVay is terrific. Everybody likes him. He’s a smart guy. And Chad Lopez, the squirrily looking dude. These are smart guys. They inform me last week, last Tuesday that they weren’t going to pay me past a certain date. Sometime around the end of March. I signed some agreement agreeing to that. I guess they were going to do it earlier but waited a couple of months so the staff because the way the show works they pay me uh these millions of dollars and then I pay a little of that as I could possibly get by with to Rob and Tony and Lou and Bernard and some to Sid and Guns.

“They have a responsibility towards the bankruptcy to try to cut costs, to save money, and try to figure out how to make the thing work. Well the first thing I would do is not give me millions of dollars for another nine months. To what end? For what reason? So they said lets make it a couple of months so your staff can all figure out something to do. They did offer me to stay on and contribute for the rest of the year to weigh in or something.”

The full clip, including a shot at former Cumulus EVP Programming & Content John Dickey can be heard at Mediaite.

Just in the past week we’ve seen Cumulus restructure KGO San Francisco with Ronn Owens taking a steep pay-cut to move into a contributor role, the filings to walk away from multiple business contracts including the purchase of WKQX/WLUP Chicago, and many other highly paid employees leaving the company over the past few months including KCMO-FM morning host Dick Wilson, Mike Catherwood, WPLJ Program Director Rick Gillette, and the news staff at WYAY Atlanta. Imus explaining how he personally pays the salaries for his staff out of his contract also explains why Cumulus cut ties with Mancow Muller’s American Patriot LLC as that deal is similarly structured.

Will there be more? If I was a highly paid staffer of a Cumulus station that is not performing well in the revenue department I’m sure me or my agent has been approached with an attempt to restructure my contract with the likelihood of being laid off if I didn’t approve. Between now and the February 1 bankruptcy court hearing over Cumulus’ restructuring plan I would not be shocked to hear of additional talent coming to terms with Cumulus on their exit from the company.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

2 Comments


  1. As much as I love the I-Man, my gosh on that clip it sounds like any given show could be his last. When did Don Imus start sounding old?


    • A long time ago he started sounding like a duck quacking when he talks. I’m not a listener, but one morning several years ago I caught his show on Beethoven 1290 out of Hartford, CT when I was doing a dial scan while waiting to pick up a friend and I thought Imus sounded like a duck quacking. I don’t remember what year this was. Beethoven 1290 went off the air 3 1/2 years ago in August 2014 and they dropped Imus at least a year or 2 before that.

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