Cumulus

Ralph Barbieri vs. KNBR: the Cumulus empire strikes back

Angela Alioto carpet-bombed the local media with a press release making the case for Ralph Barbieri (and by that I mean she talked to the Mercury News and the Chronicle and posted a release making Barbieri’s potential case on BASG). Now, it’s Cumulus’ turn to give their side of the story.

From SFGate:

KNBR’s response:

The following is a statement from Bill Bungeroth, Vice President / Market Manager, Cumulus, San Francisco.

“It is disappointing that Ralph’s lawyers have issued a press release filled with inaccurate statements and baseless accusations.

The simple fact is that Ralph refused to honor some of the most basic terms of his contract. As a result, KNBR exercised its right to terminate the contract.

Ralph does not disclose that KNBR offered him a contract to continue his pay and benefits for the next six months. His response to that offer was to make disparaging statements about KNBR in the press.

It is completely implausible that the termination of Ralph’s contract had anything to do with his age or the fact he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. KNBR renewed his contract this past fall with full knowledge of those circumstances. At that time, Ralph publicly recognized that the Company “didn’t view the Parkinson’s as a red flag.”
“That statement is true. It never has. ”

Ralph’s response to KNBR’s response:
Ralph Barbieri called this reporter late Sunday and criticized KNBR’s offer to pay him for another six months. He said they did offer to pay him for another six months, but that the offer could be terminated after one month by management.

One would think any sort of 6-month payment would’ve probably been contingent upon the payee keeping quiet about his former employer. When you’re talking about a guy like Barbieri, good luck. He’s been pulling down 6-figure salaries for years now. Plus, he mentioned on just about every show how, in his former career in advertising, he couldn’t bring himself to devote his life to convincing consumers to purchase one razor blade over another. Why? Because as Barbieri was so fond of saying, it wasn’t in him to tell people why they should by this hunk of metal over another hunk of metal, since all razor blades are the same.

(Side note: that might’ve been true back when everyone used rotary phones, but not all razor blades are created equal these days. Otherwise stores wouldn’t protect razor blades with the same kinds of strict security measures used to keep people from buying too much Sudafed. A 7-day waiting period for a package of Gillette Fusions is the norm in most states, I’m told.)

More important than severance cash is something that could possibly make Barbieri more money in the future: the chance to remain in the public eye … and in character. The publicity he’s going to create for himself (positive, negative, it really doesn’t matter in this industry) is currency. Forget a few months of pay from Cumulus, there are talk shows to appear on and books to write.

Also, don’t discount ego in any of this (not that you would). Barbieri knows exactly how Cumulus operates, how they gutted KGO like so many other stations throughout the country. He’s going to seize this opportunity — one which could revitalize his career, at least for a short time — to fight the power and those who want to silence him.

And why not? What’s the worst that could happen to Barbieri, he doesn’t get anymore money from Cumulus and spends more than he expected on lawyers? Besides, while his refusal to lie down and accept what’s happened might or might not provide him with a hefty settlement, it certainly allows him to say what he wants without being censored. This whole ordeal also provides the added bonus of keeping Barbieri in the spotlight. Just how he likes it.

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31 Comments on "Ralph Barbieri vs. KNBR: the Cumulus empire strikes back"

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amanda metcalf
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amanda metcalf

Ralph was my favorite. He’s thoughtful, insightful…less schlok than most sports show hosts….I’m a mature female who tolerated a lot of the station’s banal “Jock” talk because Ralph’s commentary was a bright and refreshing change of pace….Unless there’s a game on….No reason for me to tune in now…..

Tony
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Tony
First off, thanks BASG for your ongoing coverage of The Razor v KNBR. Second off, Cumulus’ management was very short sighted in the way they handled this. Seriously, how much comparative uproar would there have been if they had just not renewed The Razor’s contract in November and given him a chance to say goodbye? The way they handled this wasn’t going to just go down quietly. How can a corporation that manages media screw up this big when it comes to PR? The management is pissing off the listener base and they deserve what’s coming to them. Go Team… Read more »
Fitz's Future Unemployment Check
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Fitz's Future Unemployment Check

had they not renewed it then, it would have been equally ugly if not more, given that he had just come out with the revelation about having parkinsons.

John Sports
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Ditto for the ongoing coverage BASG, as always informative and right to the point.
His contract was up in eight months. If they would have let him finished out, then let him have his goodbyes, both sides would be cool. Tony your right on the money, for KNBR to play it like this will be a PR nightmare. You would think they would have been smarter than this. Ralph is not stupid, for him to bring it to his point tells me he must have a case.

Paperback Writer
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Paperback Writer
Yes thanks BASG for the radio columns (Hopefully there are COMCAST columns on their way, LOL). Good points Tony about simply letting the contract run out………. BUT here’s why they did what they did. – in my opinion, only, no inside info here: TIMING. They want and have a drive time PM show already planned, MYSTERY MAN and Mr. T. They figured we can pay off Ralph and move up our time frame, which is important in radio as they have various peak points in Arbitron ratings which is vital to setting the advertising rate. They are in competition, now,… Read more »
Gooselosgatos
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Gooselosgatos
It would be a huge mistake to pair DBruce with someone – especially Tom. DBruce doesn’t work well with other hosts. Heck, he has to shut callers down who disagree with him ( he almost always immediately drops them with no two way interaction). Essentially, he is most comfortable when he is in control and that won’t happen if he’s paired with Tom. As I’ve mentioned before, DBruce is following the Limbaugh, Steven A Smith, Skip Bayless, Glen Beck formula which is to take a side on a topic that will create anger among his 18 – 36 demographic because… Read more »
Paperback Writer
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Paperback Writer

Goose, I’m NOT saying its the right move – but it will be the move-its been planned since their last failed move with Bruce , last summer with Gary.

Gooselosgatos
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Gooselosgatos
Paperback, You seem pretty confident on this but I can’t believe they’d be that stupid. However on further thought, it might work better than I thought though I personally think the DBruce and Mr. T show would suck. DBruce would have to be cool with Tom or he’d be branded ‘uncooperative’ (after the failed Gary experiment) which could hurt his long-term career. Also, if you can’t get along with Tom it is probably the other person who is the problem as Tom is pretty laid- back/cool guy. The great thing about the Razor and Mr.T was their honesty, they didn’t… Read more »
devnull
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devnull
PBWriter, your theory is probably as good as any — we’ve already seen knbr/cumulus try to pair DBruce once (with poor results), so we know they’re willing to try stuff, and it wouldn’t be shocking that they simply try DBruce again. That said, I think the pairing would be a mistake — maybe not as big a flame-out as the DBruce+Radnich thing because I don’t think Tolbert has the ego of either Damon or Gary. But their personalities don’t strike me as particularly compatible. DBruce is better as a solo act — even if only in the comparatively small pond… Read more »
Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III
LOL. “Ambition does not reveal character, it reveals it”. As far as pairing up Damon and Tolbert, I agree that it’s probably not going to work, mainly because as has already been stated, Damon is better by himself. Even though Damon’s show might be too negative for some people’s taste, the guy’s show is great! Some of the stuff/segments you hear on his show, you won’t get on other shows on KNBR, or even 95.7 for that matter. On today’s show, he had on Joey Chestnut who of course is the hot dog eating contest guy, and he had on… Read more »
Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III
Oops my bad. LOL *”Ambition does not make character, it reveals it”. LOL…. Paperback,that’s an interesting paraphrase/take about Damon. I’m sure Damon would love to be back on 680 no matter how much he bashes 680 at times, when he says stuff like “the other station” or when he basicallys says that his show is better than Fitz and Brooks (which it is) or whenever he bashes Gary. Gary took a shot at Damon today, basically saying that they are more of a family on 680, which I guess he basically meant/impplied that Damon would rather be solo, instead of… Read more »
Stan
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Stan

Its exactly like I said..the settlement is the goal. The fun is threatening to drag Bungerhole by the nose through the courts if they don’t. And they will. As I have posted here,A Cumulus CEO who wont allow a Wiki page isn’t going to testify in court.
The only real mystery is..will he ever work again? He didn’t seem to love his old job at 300 grand a year.
The Ralph B. blog might be his next move.

Gooselosgatos
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Gooselosgatos

Ralph is an excellent fit for satellite radio.

Stan
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Stan

Ahhhhh,your younger then me-lol. I totally forgot about satellite. I still have radios that say “transistor” on them too..and that’s not a joke.

fact275
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fact275
I’ve posted my thoughts about what I see as an overreaction to his firing so I won’t go into them. But in my industry, I’ve seen people terminated or laid off without warning. Heck, it’s even happened to me. Again, it’s unfortunate for Ralph and his son but why is he exempt from the real world like the rest of us? If you read BASG and Rich Lieberman, you’ll now the radio industry is cutting costs. The days of *local* radio hosts making six figures is probably over. I’m guessing for most of you out there, you’ve seen salaries drop… Read more »
Slack'em Jack'em
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Slack'em Jack'em
But we don’t listen to all those other people every day on the radio. This story has two interesting but completely separate angles. One is the out of town large ruthless corporate parent firing our longtime homegrown radio personality….this is a deeply resonant story that we can all relate to on some level. The other is what we all thought of Ralph as a radio host. My personal feelings are that on item two I was ready to move on. I had grown tired of listening to him. I think the 3pm show can be better going forward…..although I think… Read more »
John Sports
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Understood fact275, but the big difference is the common guy gets no press, there is really no forum for it. I would like to think when you hear people voice there opinions about Ralph, they are also voicing it for others who have been treated like this.
Trust me i feel way more sorry for the working guy (who makes peanuts compared to Ralph) with 3 kids and a grip-load of Bills getting the Ax than Ralph. But it still does not make what KNBR and any other Industry for that matter make it right.

Jon
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Jon

Who is to say KNBR did not offer him a one last good bye on the air?

I would bet they did. IF Ralph decided to the burn the bridge on the air then in the end it would reflect poorly on Ralph. So KNBR is covered on that front and could proceed with no fear.

Clearly Ralph, rather then say good bye on the air, has taken his fight to the press. Which also looks bad, but at least for him he has more control on what gets out to the public.

Stan
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Stan

BASG..Evil Krueger said he wasn’t at the opening day. Having dental work done.
Did you mistake somebody else or did I miss something in his story-and surfing around,I might have I admit.

Dan
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Dan

I generally sympathize with Ralph here, but on the other hand I have almost zero tolerance for anyone hiring Angela Alioto for anything. You know someone hiring her for this type of work is going for pure visibility and noise, rather than making an intelligent or well-founded case.

Eric
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Eric

Super Lawyers get things done…if you ever need a lawyer in a high publicity case, you would be well served to get one of them as well. They get results, and noise is exactly what Ralph needs and wants on this one.

Dan
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Dan

My goodness…….I screwed up here. I was thinking of her idiot niece Michaela Alioto the whole time. I have nothing against Angela Alioto and hear what you’re saying.

Sactownbull
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Sactownbull

The one thing this really highlights is just how much employed based healthcare sucks.

Eric
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Eric
Whatever the case, this is not the first time recently that cumulus has let people go. Whether this was justified or not, it is classless the way it went down. If the station had any brains at all, they would have seen the potential for this, let his contract lapse…as is their right, and moved on. I was not a huge fan of Ralph, but I listened to him for all 28 years, because he had SOMETHING to say, which is why he was good at his job. The big radio parent companies are paring down staff all over the… Read more »
TommyJ
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TommyJ

Tom with Byrnes this afternoon and tommorow ….I’d think I’d rather have DBruce than The Dude Show.

devnull
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devnull

I wouldn’t want either choice, but your point is well-made: either of Tolbert or Byrnes has enough Dude Factor on his own.

Tom needs somebody a little bit more straight-laced (but not stuffy) to balance his “laid-back-ness”. I think Ted Robinson would make a good pairing with Tom, but I wonder if he would want a full-time radio spot.

Otis Byrd III
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Otis Byrd III
I agree. Ted Robinson would be a good pairing with Tolbert. I agree with your question if he would want to do a full-time radio spot. With his 49er duties, MLB duties with the Twins (I guess he still calls some Twins games on the side), college football duties, college basketball duties, Wimbeldon, and other duties, would he even have enough time to make a commitment to this as well? Ted Robinson does everything. I don’t know how that guy does it. His travel schedule each week much be crazy. Ray Woodson could be another guy that could be Tolbert’s… Read more »
KNBR LISTENER
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KNBR LISTENER

I will add my two cents on a potential replacement for Barbeiri.
You can’t go wrong with giving either Damon Bruce or Larry Krueger the time slot.
And when I say time slot we mean solo.
Both those guys have the personality and on-air presence to carry the show by themselves.

Gooselosgatos
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Gooselosgatos

You can go extremely wrong with DBruce and I’m not saying this because he’s a phoney and by all accounts from people in the radio business is playing a persona designed to get younger angry listeners looking for an outlet to listen to him.

Krueger would be much better in terms of chemistry. DBruce is a solo act.

josephua
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josephua

I wonder when Tolbert’s contract is due and if he’ll re-up seeing what they did to his partner?

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