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'El Cucuy' Returning to Morning Radio

The Spanish-language star, who had a dispute with his ex-employer, will be on a rival station.

March 18, 2004|Steve Carney | Special to The Times

"El Cucuy," the wildly popular Spanish-language radio star, is expected to announce his return to morning drive-time today, the day after KSCA-FM (101.9) and its parent company, Univision, let him go for walking out in the middle of a program.

Renan Almendarez Coello, the Honduran native whose nickname translates as "the boogeyman," has not been on the air live since Feb. 20, when he lambasted his bosses and stormed out. It was the culmination of a dispute with management over the treatment and pay of his supporting cast among other unspecified grievances.

Coello starts at 5 a.m. Monday with a new morning show on rival station KLAX-FM (97.9) "La Raza."

His morning show at KSCA (101.9) attracted audiences far surpassing those of his rivals at other stations, English- or Spanish-speaking, even beating such established stars as Howard Stern, Rick Dees and Bill Handel. Coello brought the same success to afternoons, when he moved his show in February 2003, saying the morning schedule took too much time from his family, charity work and other projects. He immediately took KSCA's ratings from 24th to second in the time slot, and went on to claim the top spot.

But Coello said Univision suspended him after he walked out of his show last month. The company declined to comment, but aired "best of" programs in his 3-to-7 p.m. time slot until Wednesday, when it replaced him with its top-rated afternoon host in Phoenix, David "El Gatillero" Palacios. L.A.-based Univision is also syndicating Palacios to stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Sacramento and Las Vegas, all former Coello outlets.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that "after assessing the content of Renan's recent shows, we determined that his inappropriate on-air behavior left us with no choice but to end our affiliation with him." Univision executives did not return calls seeking comment.

But Coello's attorney, Jim Hornstein, said the parting had been mutually decided on about 10 days ago, ending friction that began shortly after Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language communications company, merged with KSCA's former parent, Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. That deal won FCC approval in September.

"It came to a head with what happened on the air," Hornstein said, but "this is something that has been brewing for months."

Hornstein said that "for them to take the position that this is their decision is not accurate."

He said Coello's grievances were not about his own pay, but about management's attitude, though he wouldn't elaborate.

"Renan has been the star of the station and of Univision Radio for a number of years. If the relationship isn't working, and the station isn't according their star the kind of respect he needs, there needs to be a change."

KSCA made its own change Wednesday, with the premiere of Palacios' program.

"His faithful fans in Phoenix have admired his listener-friendly mix of music and laughs for years," said Eleazar Garcia, Western regional programming director for Univision Radio, in a statement, "and we're eager to introduce him to Univision Radio fans in Los Angeles and cities across the western United States."

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