What has happened to Emmis in Hungary is an international tragedy of political deceit and greed. One of first two Independent Radio stations in Budapest were bought in 1994 by MetroMedia International–by Carl Brazell, its CEO with E.C.C. FM and 50KW 1A Clear types. The other Indie was started by the British.
Bud came to Budapest from his Portland, Maine home in his head to toe L.L. Bean outfit-speaking no Hungarian. He started an FM station from scratch-hiring natives–teaching them the Radio programming & sales Biz. The only real enemy was the govt.-owned stations. As a local “Timebuyer’ you had to make an appt to go see your Govt. Station salesperson. All bringing new meaning to the word arrogance.
Bud had a terrific first year in Revenue & Profits. I know, because a year later I went to Budapest to try to buy an Indie TV station for Phil Lombardo. I asked Bud how had he managed such superb revenue growth. Bud said all local/ regional & national advertisers were totally mad about Govt’s O&Os. Pricing arrogance. So Bud taught his new sales people to charge less that the Govt’s rates. Govt. charged–say, 500 bucks a spot–Bud charged $350 bucks–with precious little early ratings justification. Buyers loved it–bought Bud–just make Govt. stations look bad and get reasonable.
Bud, who’d been an Eastman radio rep client of mine, asked me to run a Sales Meeting for him: telling me that the natives spoke English. Fast backward, I became a Sales Mgr again–rattling off all the old Rep sales phrases-seeing dead eyes in response. Bud later explained to me that “switch pitch ” -charge enough to put a lump in the buyer’s throat—“build a lalapalooza time schedule”–haven’t yet made it across the Atlantic.
Bud got to know the top political guys by playing tennis with many of them. One day, the Minister of Defense called Bud into his office to advise that his Department planned to spend, say, $2,000 a week for 13 weeks. Bud was ecstatic. The quid pro quo was Bud’s station had to pick up the tab for the Minister and his favorite squeeze for 3 weeks in regal style in Bermuda. Bud explained US laws prohibited such bribes called RICO.
He immediately put Bud in jail for insubordination. Bud called Carl who flew to Budapest next day with a top lawyer. They went to the Prime Minister to make their case. Bud was set free– and the Minister fired from his post. But it showed the dictatorship DNA was still alive and well among Hungarian top politicos.
Emmis later put a new more powerful Indie FM on the air–later bought MetroMedia FM–expanded to a national Radio Network- Employing and training hundreds of native Hungarians supervised by a crackerjack veteran Broadcaster, Paul Fiddick. Reportedly the only sin committed by Emmis is that they were too successful.
So, the current Hungarian govt. emulated Russia, China, Venezuela, etc and summarily created a law justifying Radio-TV stations takeover by Hungarians -pals of the Prime Minister arguably having paid adequate vigorish for this criminal corporate takeover. Ron Lauder beat a similar ball game when the Czech Republic tried to take over his very successful TV Group that he’d built there.
It’s so sad because we so much want to believe that a new Democratic Country like Hungary–a part of NATO–applying to be an European Union member–would never commit such an obvious criminal act on a trusting American, long time Investor. It’ll be even sadder if our US Govt. doesn’t get off its righteous ass and fight for Emmis’ legitimate rights. Jeff Smulyan shouldn’t have to spend a gazillion Emmis dollars to fight this rigged legal battle. Ok -I’m off my soap box.
–Frank Boyle, Station Broker