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Michaels Leaving Helm of Clear Channel

Broadcasting: Move comes as the company attempts to fend off critics who accuse it of being anti-competitive.

July 23, 2002|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Randy Michaels, a former "shock jock" who became perhaps the nation's most powerful radio executive as head of Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s 1,200 radio stations, will step aside to head a newly created think tank for the company that will focus on emerging wireless and satellite technologies.

Michaels attended a meeting with Clear Channel President Mark Mays, and "the conversations led to Randy making the decision to move on to this new area," said company spokeswoman Diane Warren.

Michaels, 50, could not be reached for comment.

The announcement rocked employees at Clear Channel and music executives on both coasts.

The move comes as Clear Channel is seeking to fend off congressional critics who say it engages in anti-competitive practices and questionable deals with independent record promoters--middlemen paid by music labels to pitch songs to station programmers.

Last week Michaels met with the heads of several major record labels about independent promotion--a practice the music industry now says smacks of payola, or illicit secret payments made to radio stations in exchange for airplay. Michaels took a confrontational stance in the meetings and left major issues unresolved, according to music executives.

Warren said that Mays was "absolutely not" dissatisfied with the performance of the radio operation. Clear Channel plans to announce its quarterly earnings next week, and there is "nothing funny or unusual; we don't have any surprises to announce."

A vocal proponent of media consolidation and of sometimes controversial money-making strategies such as national contesting, Michaels joined Clear Channel in 1999 when it bought Jacor Communications, a radio chain that he was running.

Mays will serve as acting chief of the radio division while searching for a successor for Michaels. Warren said the new radio boss would be based at the company's headquarters in San Antonio, not at the current division office in Covington, Ky.

Shares of Clear channel closed down 18 cents on Monday at $29.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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