Randy Michaels returns to Chicago

Robert Feder in the Sun-Times today has a rather detailed look at the career of Randy Michaels, the guy who saved WFLZ-FM in Tampa by creating “The Power Pig” – and his most infamous radio stunt right here in Chicago – Using “hell” as a marketing slogan in 1991 that practically destroyed former contemporary-hit radio station WYTZ-FM (Z95).

Michaels is being tapped by Sam Zell to run Tribune’s broadcast operations of the Tribune Co., in which Zell is taking over today. Zell hired Michaels when he owned Jacor to run its radio division. Michaels became a top executive at Clear Channel Communications when Jacor sold its stations to the media conglomerate.

Brian Holmes (formerly of WFLZ) had a great website (which is now defunct) detailing how Michaels, as a radio consultant from Cincinnati, turned around WFLZ from a middling oldies outlet in 1989 to a CHR powerhouse – one that continues to this day. Among the stunts Michaels would conceive:

– To launch the format, WFLZ “held” one of WRBQ-FM’s (Q105) deejays “hostage” – Cleveland Wheeler. Though still an oldies outlet, they were threating to flip to the Top 40 format Q105 had a monopoly on, unless the station paid WFLZ $1 million. It finally flipped to the format on September 25, 1989, re-branding the station as Power 93: The Power Pig and taking WRBQ-FM (Q105) on head-to-head.

– WFLZ began selling “Screw the Q” T-shirts around town from the Pig Van.

– The stunts created buzz in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and also attracted national attention .

In 1993, WRBQ-FM left the contemporary-hit format forever and flipped to Country (the station is still known as Q105 and is now an oldies outlet.)

WFLZ also was home to two discjockeys with Chicago ties – The Tim and Tom Show, which featured future WLUP-FM executive Tim Dukes, and their replacement on the evening shift -former WBBM-FM personality Bubba The Love Sponge (Todd Clem, who now has a show on Howard Stern’s 101 channel on Sirius Satellite Radio.)

The sad part about Michael’s Chicago experience was that the “hell” stunt he created for WYTZ to compete with arch rival WBBM was clearly ill-conceived. Here’s a marketing lesson for you kids out there – never use anything related to Satan as a marketing tool.