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Monday, November 15, 2010

Citadel genius responds to Mickey Luckoff comments

11/14, "You would think that Farid Suleman, chairman and CEO of Citadel Broadcasting, owner of KGO, KSFO and about 200 other stations, would be sorry to lose Mickey Luckoff, the president and general manager of KGO and KSFO, who resigned last month after 35 years of high ratings, profits and awards from the community and the industry.
  • You would be wrong. Luckoff accompanied his resignation with stinging criticisms of Suleman, many of them chronicled in this column. "They're the lowest of the low," Luckoff said of Suleman and fellow Citadel execs. He said he'd stayed at the helm after Citadel bought the two stations in 2007 mainly to protect jobs and the stations' programming.

"He's apparently pretty damned skilled financially," Luckoff said. "To be able to overpay for the ABC Radio group, take the company into bankruptcy, come out of it ... and get himself a $43 million package (in stock grants) is unbelievable." Especially, Luckoff added, when he was being ordered to cut costs at his stations.

  • (Early this month, in the face of complaints from a lender and a court hearing into the matter, Citadel withdrew the stock awards.)

Suleman, in a phone call from New York, did not directly respond to Luckoff's charges about Citadel's bankruptcy and his grants. Of Luckoff's resignation, three years after Citadel's takeover, Suleman said, "It seems like a long time to figure out we weren't people he wanted to work for." Suleman said that, among Citadel's stations, KGO "had the least amount of cost cuts." He noted that "KGO's ratings and revenue have been on decline the past two years. Ratings are down 25 to 30 percent. It's not one of our top 10 cash-flowing markets. It was time for someone to come and fix the ratings." (Within days of Luckoff's departure, Suleman tapped Diedra Lieberman, director of sales at KGO/KSFO, as the new GM.)

Luckoff said, of his superiors, "They were constantly going behind my back." He submitted his letter of resignation shortly after KGO and KSFO lost their national sales manager. Lieberman, he said, had a candidate in mind. "I said 'OK, I'd like to see her resume and meet her.' Next thing I know, she sent the request for approval to Farid; he answers back and copies me, and says, 'Approved.' I said, 'That's it.' "

  • Said Suleman: "The process is that local management hires people. The national sales manager resigned; that's not a good thing. (Lieberman) went through the channels internally to get (a hiring) approved. If the sales manager doesn't get a response on a timely basis, and calls me, and I am available to make things happen, I will. I don't need to go behind backs."
In response to Luckoff's contention that "every station (Suleman has) touched has turned into you know what," the CEO said the company's stations in Dallas, Detroit and New York are doing well. (All three are in the top 10, while KABC in Los Angeles is ranked 29th.) As for Luckoff's expressed fears that Suleman is likely to replace live programming with syndicated fare, such as Don Imus' talk show, Suleman responded, "Ultimately a station is going to be successful by offering information and entertainment. It's got to be live and local.
  • But if you can't get live and local, and there are syndicated programs that the audience may prefer, you have to look at it. But I have not put on a single syndicated program on KGO."
Informed of Suleman's remarks, Luckoff e-mailed: "I don't wish to get into a pissing contest with a skunk!" He added: "His comments carry as much credibility as the value of the stock grants he gave me a couple of weeks ago.""...

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