Howard Stern Fired…and Hired

Howard Stern is now the vampire of Chicago radio: the host who will not die. Booted off his second station in two years Monday, he reappeared on another Chicago outlet 24 hours later. From WJJD (1160 AM), as a lead-in to fellow psycho G. Gordon Liddy, he’ll continue his quixotic three-year range war to break into the Chicago market. He’ll also use the station as a base to continue his total-war campaign against Loop big guy Larry Wert, who fired him two years ago, and his new nemesis, Rock 103.5’s Mancow Muller.

The decision by WCKG general manager Mike Disney to take Stern off the air, after less than seven months in the classic-rock station’s morning-drive slot, was unexpected. Just two months ago Stern was in hot water for some tough words against Wert. “I hope you’re in a men’s room in a gas station,” said Stern in part, “and some guy comes in, a very effeminate guy, but powerful, pushes you over the sink, pulls your pants down, gives you the hot beef injection, and delivers the deadly AIDS into your system.” Stern wished that Wert would then bleed into his kids’ food. But Disney stood by him, even intemperately defending the broadside in a long letter to local advertisers. Now he concedes that the show’s “on-air content” made him pull the plug, but won’t comment further, apparently as part of an “amicable” agreement to split with Stern.

Harvey Pearlman, general manager of ‘JJD, likewise refuses to comment on Stern’s bellicose aural porn, but he does gush that Stern is the “biggest single individual talent in radio, period.” Chicago radio listeners at this point don’t seem to agree. Stern was never more than a minor force in his two previous sallies here. Why that is is anybody’s guess, but it certainly isn’t that the audience is too refined. They love Muller, a Stern manque who lacks only the master’s brains and perniciousness. Now he’s looking like a giant killer as well.

How to Make $11 Million Without Really Trying

Louie Lee put WXRT on the air as a brokered foreign-language station in the mid-1950s. This week, nearly 40 years later, his son Danny is packing his bags in the station’s northwest-side headquarters. It’s a bittersweet decision: he’s leaving the family business behind, but the $77 million in his pocket is making the parting a bit easier.

That astonishing figure is what Group W, the New York-based chain, is shelling out to take over heritage rocker WXRT and sports-talk sister station, the Score. The purchase price is significantly higher than the roughly $60 million originally asked for. The revised figure came after a negotiation hang-up between Lee’s Diamond Broadcasting and Group W. Lee now cheerfully confirms Hitsville’s account of the problem some weeks back. Group W had been worried that the station might “underperform” in the months after the sale was announced but before it officially took control: the company wanted the option to reopen the deal if billings fell. ‘XRT agreed, but prudently demanded a reciprocal right if billings rose. A booming local-radio market edged up the stations’ profits (which are in the neighborhood of $6.5 million a year). The cap to the original deal, Lee reveals, was actually $66 million: the bit of renegotiation then produced an extra $11 million for Diamond.

The deal is now final. Group W assumed managerial control of the station October 1; legal and tax considerations have pushed the actual takeover date back to the end of the year. Lee and Seth Mason, the underground radio vet who reimagined WXRT as a rock station in the early 1970s, will oversee their radio holdings in Oklahoma City from new digs in Northbrook. The only employee they’re taking with them is longtime bookkeeper Dolores Frydrych. Otherwise, the staff will remain the same, Lee says, though four minor positions at the station have already been eliminated. Lee acknowledges “there’s a paranoia on the street” about the sale, but downplays talk of major programming changes. He says that Group W can’t fuss with the air staff until 1996. And even then, he says flatly, “They’d be stupid to. They paid way too much to tamper with it.”