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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