Jimmy de Castro named new President and GM of WGN Radio

In a move that is being praised by many media observers, former Evergreen Media exec Jimmy de Castro has been named president and general manager of Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-AM (720), effective June 3. He will report to Tribune President of local programming Larry Wert – the same Wert who reported to DeCastro at WLUP-AM/FM in the 1990’s.

de Castro succeeds Tom Langmeyer in the role, who was fired last October. Currently, WGN Sales Manager Jeff Hill is in the role on an interim basis.

de Castro joined WLUP-FM in 1981, and was there at a time when “The Loop” was a young adult powerhouse. de Castro co-founded Evergreen Media and later bought the station from Heftel. Evergreen merged with Chancellor Media in 1997, then merged with AMFM in 1999, where de Castro became CEO. When Clear Channel bought AMFM in 2000, de Castro left the company after four months, ceding the role to Randy Michaels.

de Castro founded Chicago-based The Content Factory in 2007, which signed former ESPN personality Dan Patrick to do a syndicated sports-talk radio show, which is currently heard in more than sixty markets (and syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Networks), Fox Sports Radio, and is simulcast on the NBC Sports Network and DirecTV’s Audience Network.

The hire of de Castro reunites him with some of his Loop personnel from back in the day, now at WGN: morning personality Johnathan Brandmeier, and afternoon host Garry Meier, who partnered with Steve Dahl at the Loop.

For the past decade or so, WGN has seen in ratings and revenue drop as listeners fled for the exits and was unable to attract younger listeners. Once untouchable at the top, WGN now regularly ranks behind WBBM-AM, WVAZ, and WTMX overall (and yes, WGN’s scenario does parallel the current plight of American Idol.) Even worse, WGN often doesn’t rank in the top 25 in the all-important 25-54 demos.

Hardest time came between 2008-10 when Kevin Metheny was program director of the station, and hired Mike McConnell and Jim Laski (and yes, this scenario does once again parallel American Idol when they brought aboard Mariah Carey and Nicki Manaj as judges.)

Already, there is talk (mainly from message board posters) that other Loop alumni, such as Dahl, Danny Bonaduce, and Kevin Matthews could come on board since DeCastro is at WGN. These scenarios as um… very unlikely. But consider this hire as a positive step forward for a station that hasn’t made many over the last several years – especially during the Zell/Michaels/Metheny era.

And as for talk of a “for sale” sign hanging in front of the station? I’m certain realtors in the Chicago area could use plenty of those…because with the hire of Jimmy de Castro, WGN won’t be needing one.