According to industry sources familiar with the search process, former top National Association of Broadcasters executive Jim May has met with the NAB’s outside search firm about replacing David Rehr as president of the trade association, though neither that interview nor others have yet extended beyond search firm Russell Reynolds to the radio and TV execs who must make the decision, those sources said.
The NAB is not expected to meet an internal deadline of Labor Day for naming a replacement for Rehr, who exited in May after being unable to build relationships with key Hill and FCC players.
May is a former Coca-Cola bottling lobbyist hired by Fritts in 1988 to run NAB’s lobbying shop. May once told B&C that those years were some of the happiest and most productive of his career, as witness NAB’s growing clout during his and Fritts’ tenure. May, who is currently President of the Air Transport Association, could not be reached for comment at press time.
Among the other top names still being floated for Rehr’s post are NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry, though he has reportedly told various people he was not angling for the post; veteran CBS Washington exec Marty Franks; newer CBS Washington exec John Orlando, who is former head of government relations for NAB under Fritts; Kurt Wimmer of Covington & Burling and formerly of Gannett; David Kennedy, formerly with Susquehanna and now CEO of mobile IP company FlyCast; and current NAB exec Marcellus Alexander. Another name mentioned as a possiblity is former Pax exec Dean Goodman.
Newberry is one of the execs charged with helping to find a Rehr successor, but so was Eddie Fritts before he threw his hat in the ring back in 1981. Fritts won the job and helped take the association from one famously described as not being able to lobby its way out of a paper bag to one of the most effective advocates in town before exiting when the board wanted to go in a different direction.
A name that was called unlikely but a “home run” by one fan is Oregon Rep. Greg Walden. He is a former broadcaster but also a Republican, the latter which is not necessarily a disqualifier. But Walden may be eyeing a larger seat in Congress and probably doesn’t need the big pay upgrade after selling his stations.
Jack Sander, then-NAB joint board chairman, told B&C following Rehr’s resignation in May that the board would be looking for someone who could hit the ground running. Rehr had been a beer distributor executive before joining the association, and conceded to B&C that he had felt like an outsider at the outset of his tenure.
“I think we are going to look for someone who either understands our business or has the ability to understand our businesses very, very fast,” Sander told B&C. “We do not have time to have a six-month or eight-month learning curve about our business, our industries, and our issues. But there are a lot of smart people in Washington who are already engaged in our issues.”
It is now clear to all that the beer man did not hit the spot with NAB, but it is possible that things could go better with Coke.