Andrew found a very lucrative and part-time “turnaround” career after he retired from his corporate division President job at age 55—at what was the height of his career.  This definitively was NOT his chosen time to leave the corporate world.  In a horrific scenario, he had to leave when he was told he suffered from a fatal disease with a year to live.  (Spoiler alert—Since I am writing this story 20 years later, you now know that this was a shocking misdiagnosis.  He is alive and well and smiling at me!!!).   Anyway, back then….by the time it was determined that this was a malpractice-worthy medical mistake…he’d left his job, couldn’t get it back because they’d offered the plum position to someone else and the only jobs at the company weren’t nearly as desirable.  Clearly, the amazing news was that he was going to live a long and productive life—the difficult task was finding a new productive life.  

Become a consultant again was his first stab at getting back in the game after a 9-month hiatus.  After all, he thought, he’d been a consultant in the radio industry before…but, “the phone never rang”, he said wistfully.  Instead, he shifted gears and started calling brokers in the industry to help him identify radio stations in need of a turnaround.  The first station he uncovered needed a General Manager, so Andrew stepped in with the goal of turning around rock- bottom ratings and an almost unheard of loss around in order to sell the station.   With a one-year contract, he moved to New England, while his wife stayed working in New York—and for that year, a commuter marriage ensued.

While the story of how he did manage to achieve those goals and bring the station up to a #6 market rating is somewhat beyond the scope of this blog, it’s such a great story that I just can’t keep it to myself.  So…here’s a quick synopsis.   Is there anyone who doesn’t know about Don Imus…and his “choice words and commentary” about anyone and anything?    Well…as Andrew was taking over the station, Imus was looking to expand his reach beyond New York City, so Andrew convinced him to use his station as that stepping stone.  Just after the deal was struck, Imus had surgery, so the station could play only outdated reruns…not the deal Andrew had signed on for.  Smart businessman that he is, Andrew refused to pay Imus until he went live.  When Imus did go on air, he BLASTED Andrew by name for delaying the payment.  If you know Imus, you wouldn’t be surprised at the insulting, demeaning and histrionic vitriol that came out of his mouth.   While Andrew was hurt, distraught and clearly emotionally bruised, the ratings did start to climb!  And after a year, with those incredibly improved ratings, management sold the station and almost everyone walked away happy.   Andrew’s ego and self image still smarted, … until…he heard Imus unleash a similar attack  (albeit for a different reason) against the next station manager he worked with!  When Andrew finally confronted Imus after the whole affair, Imus gave him a brotherly pat on the back, grinned without a hint of contrition or apology and explained: ”You know— it’s all only an act…don’t you???”

Anyway, the year long turnaround was a success…a good payday.   But Andrew was now on the retirement beach again, albeit with a fiery and and public Imus run-in and a known turnaround success in his belt—on top of an already excellent reputation in the business.  Still in his mid-50s, he wasn’t ready to call it a day.  And this time, the PHONES DID RING.  Not surprisingly, not all of the calls were proposals worth pursuing.  

The call that did lead to his next “Retirement Chapter” came from another radio operator who had recently sold a station for a considerable sum, and now—like Andrew had nothing to do.  Clearly, an excellent network of business contacts was key to both of these men’s next chapters!    The two pros who had nothing to do joined forces as partners to buy troubled stations in need of a turnaround, do what they knew how to do to and sell them for a profit.   The two partners were in their mid-50s with a lot of fire in their bellies and amazing credentials and expertise.  Andrew freely admits, however, that if they had been in their mid-60s, they probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off.   “We both still had a good power base and were still in the game”, he acknowledged.  

From that start, the two worked for 12 years together. Over that time, they bought and turned around 35 stations at a profit!   With a wonderfully modest grin, Andrew confessed that this PART TIME JOB paid him more money than he had earned in his 27 years in corporate America!!!  I think that the one thing that Andrew regretted about this business was that it WAS part time and he still had time on his hands.  He did some not for profit work and consulting to fill some of the down times.  Nonetheless, he knew that this was an amazing gig.  

Then “Why did you end it?”  I wondered.  After all, I thought, it was part time, you had your freedom, you were making money and having fun.  What’s not to like?  In a refrain that I’ve heard before, he talked about the changing nature of the business and the people in it.  “What do you think the 25 year olds running stations playing music that we didn’t understand thought when these two 65 year old men in suits showed up on their door?”, he half-joked.  Add to that the margin pressure from new options like satellite and syndicated radio, and the formerly money-making formula didn’t work so well.  When they finally lost money on a transaction in the 12th year, the two partners shook hands, congratulated themselves on a great part-time career and walked away to full blown retirement.

I asked about his transition to “full retirement”.  He talked about the fact that this partnership business was far from full time and provided a sort of glide path into full-blown retirement.  And then he launched into a discussion of THE OFFICE.  You’ll have to wait to read about that. It’s a great story!!!

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