The Sale of WIOD – Part 1
by AK - February 16, 2014
Saturday Night Bedtime Story – Good Night, You Princes of The Causeway, You Kings of South Florida
PART ONE: The Meeting
On fine day, one that started like many others, just before the end of the Rick and Suds Show and prior to Neil going on the air, management told us we were holding a company meeting, and it was mandatory for everyone to attend.
Oh, and it’s not in the conference room, it was going to be in the building right across the street in the office building over there. We’d never been there before. Little did we know that several weeks later, we’d never be back to the “Wonderful Isle of Dreams”.
Immediately everyone is gossiping and the building is abuzz.. All hidden and whispery. It was the kinda thing that Neil would have mentioned off hand during the show, but it wasn’t his primary discussion that day. He’d just reference it.
But me, and the rest of the producers were just wildly speculating..
“They’re bringing in Howard to do Mornings, Rick and Suds go back to afternoons, Phil goes back to nights.” “No dude.. We’re buying another station” “They’re finally gonna put us on FM!” “Meh.. Maybe it’s just Bob Greene leaving”
Frankly, I was so caught up in it all that frankly, I don’t remember whether the meeting was during Neil’s show and they put “best of” tapes on,, or whether they waited for Phil to be on and held the meeting then, since he wasn’t part of the sale anyway.
And the the time came, the entire building went across the street. Oh, did I say “the entire building”? My bad. Sorry.JUST WIOD. The Coast and WHQT weren’t invited. And It wasn’t just the air staff.. It was programming, promotions, sales, everyone. And honestly, I remember the walk over there being filled with office laughter from groups of friends, walking in happy little groups on the way to the slaughter.
We walk in to this building we’ve never been to, and fill a conference room. It’s so full that people are not just sitting in every seat, they’re lined around the perimeter. And the mumbling and talking gets louder and people are at ease. And Bob Green steps to the front of the room. He’s there with another guy I didn’t recognize, and he introduced him as Bob Neil who was some vice president of Cox or whatever. JUST TELL US ALREADY dude! Are we going on FM or WHAT?
“A business decision has been made and COX has decided to sell WIOD…”
And he points to another, older man I didn’t recognize. Button down shirt and tie, slacks, dress shoes. “To Paxson Communications.”
All the air leaves the room, as 60 people all inhale/gasp.
I’d never seen him before. Never heard him speak before. But his speech didn’t leave me feeling scared or worried about the religious stuff, or the station’s future, or even my job. I was an optimist back in those days. I had wide-eyed hopes that maybe this would be a good thing. They were gonna build a brand new major studio for us. A new owner could mean new opportunities. The sale of WIOD, when it was all complete, is one of the story-lines in my life that ended wide-eyed optimism. Santa, Tooth Fairy, Sale of WIOD. Not in that order.. But I digress, and I’m getting ahead of myself.
Neil, Rick and Suds stay. Phil is staying with COX. Newsroom is being dismantled. Canes, Dolphins, gone. We’re keeping a few of the Sports department, for now. This guy goes with WIOD, that guy stays. She’s staying but he’s leaving. We could be out in as soon as 30 days, so start packing, Thank you.
And the meeting ends, and we walk back to the station, much slower, heads lower.
And over the next few weeks, we boxed up 50 years worth of stuff, and prepared to have our parent company cut the cord, and hand us to an adoptive parent.. A strange, crazy, weird, dangerously unaware parent.
The Sale of WIOD Part 2
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