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'Out of All This Chaos There Is a Profit to Be Made' : DICK CLARK PRODUCTIONS : Durable Entertainer Uses His Long-Running 'American Bandstand' to Dance to Fame, a Large Fortune and Widespread Ventures

May 05, 1987|JAMES BATES | Times Staff Writer

Dick Clark concluded his 1976 autobiography "Rock, Roll & Remember" with a chapter called "I Have a Secret Wish That 'Bandstand' Will Go on Forever."

Another not-so-secret wish is for Clark's "American Bandstand" to go on forever as an hourlong program. In September, the American Broadcasting Co., citing declining ratings for "American Bandstand," trimmed the hourlong sock hop to 30 minutes. The network filled its time slot with a cartoon show called "The Littles," about a family of tiny people who live in the walls of a home.

So Clark, who has described "American Bandstand" as "like a child I've raised," bluntly let the network know what he thought of the decision. "I was rather crude in my reaction. It was a two-word response," he said.

Come September, "American Bandstand," the longest-running variety program in television history--it debuted on ABC on Aug. 5, 1957--will no longer be on the network because Clark is selling it into first-run syndication on independent television stations and network affiliates. In the end, Clark may make more money with "American Bandstand" in syndication because such programs can often bring in more than the networks pay in license fees.

Years ago, Clark, once best known as America's premier Saturday-afternoon record spinner, wouldn't have been in a position to sidestep the network. Now he is. In the past 10 years, his Burbank company, Dick Clark Productions, has emerged as one of the busiest in television, with about 114 hours of programming produced during the current television season.

Still, there's a nagging need for Dick Clark Productions to keep churning out new programs, to diversify. Two shows, "American Bandstand" and Clark's "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes," provided more than half the company's gross profit in the last three years.

The company also needs to lessen its dependence on Clark, whom the company has insured for $5 million. As hard as he works, Clark knows that he can't do it all himself. So in January, Dick Clark Productions went public, selling 1.27 million shares of stock at $6.50 a share, and raised $8.2 million to finance program development. The offering also will enable Clark to use stock options to lure experienced executives, producers and writers.

The public offering for the company, which earned $3.8 million on $32.3 million in revenue in the year ended June 30, 1986, was somewhat unexpected. Last August, an article on Clark in Newsweek magazine, citing Clark's obsession with financial privacy, declared, "Don't count on ever being able to buy stock in a Dick Clark company."

But the reality is that Clark turns 58 on Nov. 30. In other words, the man known as 'America's oldest teen-ager" will be eligible to collect his full Social Security benefits in a little more than seven years.

Clark, however, said he feels 40 and has no plans to retire.

"I don't really relate to my age. I'm not 57, physically or mentally," he said.

Clark doesn't keep working because he needs the money. His personal wealth was estimated last year by Forbes magazine at more than $180 million.

His cash compensation from Dick Clark Productions for the year ended June 30, 1986, was $1.56 million, according to a prospectus. On top of that, the prospectus said, he received $1.1 million in performance fees from the company and $171,000 in producing fees. That money doesn't include what he makes on the side as host of two game shows, "$25,000 Pyramid" and "$100,000 Pyramid," produced by other firms.

Clark and his wife, Karen, also own 5.7 million shares of his company's common stock, which have a market value of more than $31 million based on Monday's closing price of $5.50 a share. They also own 675,000 shares of Class A stock, not traded publicly, which gives them control over a 77% stake.

Overall, the company has 11 television series and specials scheduled for syndicated and network airings next season and is trying to sell three more pilots. Another seven television movies, three feature films and one dramatic series are in advanced stages of development. The company is also considering six game-show ideas.

Besides "American Bandstand," the company's offerings include "Puttin' on the Hits," "Keep on Cruisin'," seven annual specials such as the "American Music Awards" and syndicated reruns like "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes."

Clark's involvement in television is so widespread that comedian David Letterman describes him as someone who has "hosted and produced more TV programs than any human breathing air today." As a joke, Letterman has campaigned for a "one-person, one-show" rule.

But some analysts think that Clark's company still doesn't offer a broad enough base of programming to grow dramatically. "He provides a filler, but they aren't programs that stick in your mind as a viewer. No network is going to build a rating schedule around him," said Harold Vogel, an entertainment analyst with Merrill Lynch Capital Markets.

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