It was really weird." That's how Maribeth Papuga, senior vice president and director of local broadcast for Media-Vest, describes agency reaction to news that more than 130 radio account executives and managers had left Katz Media for arch-competitor Interep. By the end of last week, just as weirdly, they were all back, except—for now—the three senior executives who began the exodus.
The mass exodus followed the departure of Steve Shaw, Tucker Flood and Mark Gray, who abandoned leadership of the Katz Radio and co-owned Christal Radio groups to create a new entity at Interep.
According to Marc Guild, Interep president, marketing division, the trio had been talking with Interep for several weeks. "These three guys came to us; we didn't go to them."
Initially, Katz CEO Stu Olds, apparently caught off guard, issued a statement expressing "disappointment at these employees' decision to attempt to disrupt our business operations." Within days, he declared in another statement, "We are in the process of welcoming back all of the sellers who had worked within Katz Radio and Christal Radio in New York."
Interep countered with its own release: "Katz Radio Group today took actions to interfere with the recent expansion of our staff and leadership team." The statement adds that Interep will "take any and all necessary lawful actions to stop any wrongful interference with our business."
Interep would not comment on the status of Shaw, Flood and Gray. Katz would not discuss industry reports that Olds was offering re-signing bonuses of $50,000 to $250,000. On Thursday, the three seemed to still be employed at Interep. Callers asking for them were told they were in an all-day meeting.
The story may not be over. Katz Director of Corporate Communications Anne Kenny said there are issues to be hammered out but "I expect them to come back to Katz in a matter of days. It's a legal thing."
The bizarre exodus and reversal mystifies buyer Mary Barnas, senior vice president and director of local broadcast for Carat. "What happens to Citadel?" she wonders, noting that the station group, in a negotiation fallout with Interep, had recently moved to Katz.