Jimmy DeCastro exits WGN-AM



WGN-AM President and General Manager Jimmy deCastro has decided to step down from the station effective at the end of this month.

The decision was made as the radio exec decided to more focus more on his Evanston-based company, The Content Factory. His firm handles syndication for several programs and distributes new media content.

“I’ve done everything I can to respect and build on the legacy of this amazing place, and I believe I accomplished everything I set out to do,” deCastro told Robert Feder. “It’s been great fun to work with the incredibly talented people here. Now the time is right for me to go back and build something new.”

deCastro arrived at WGN in 2013 thanks to Larry Wert, who worked with him at Evergreen Media, then owners of WLUP-FM.  As yours truly praised the hire at the time, deCastro undid some of the mistakes Kevin Metheny and Randy Michaels made under their watch. deCastro rehired Steve Cochran for morning drive, brought aboard Roe Conn for afternoon drive and Justin Kaufmann for evenings. Ratings for WGN during deCastro’s tenure remained strong – in the top five. But like other radio stations in Chicago, revenues declined thanks to the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the market’s continuing population loss. 

On the other hand, there were several missteps – notably the firing of afternoon personality Garry Meier, which angered fans. There was the failure of all-sports station The Game (WGWG-FM, 87.7 FM), lasting all of nine months. Many accused deCastro of hiring his friends for key positions – a standard known all-too well in Chicago (referred to as “The Chicago Way”.) In a town rife with corruption, yours truly back in 2014 questioned deCastro hiring people he is friends with in a piece referencing Steve Dahl’s assurson of WGN-AM being “the worst”. Yours truly pointed out DeCastro’s way of doing business was no different than those of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And no, that wasn’t a compliment.

deCastro wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity on message boards and social media, with some saying WGN was being run just as badly as it was during the Metheny/Michaels era.

But the biggest loss under his watch was the loss of Chicago Cubs rights to CBS Radio, after a 90-year run. While deCastro recently claimed the station was saving money without the rights, WGN is still missing a huge ratings windfall as the Cubs are on a historic run toward the World Series – they would’ve returned to the top of the ratings had they did.

And in another recent embarrassment for the station, overnight personality Patti Vasquez and her producer were suspended for a day after calling and waking up Mayor Emanuel in the middle of the night (As I noted above, I guess you can’t mess with a top politician who has um… “ties” with upper management.)

No word on who would replace deCastro in the role, as Larry Wert is adding deCastro’ former duties to his own for now. But it wouldn’t surprise yours truly if WGN would just eliminate the position altogether.

As for deCastro, maybe the radio grind wasn’t for him any more. But I’m surprised he didn’t ask for a key position in Mayor Emanuel’s administration – he would fit right in and be hired in five minutes. After all, this is Chicago.