What did you wake up thinking about this morning? Probably the first thing I think is “Boy, I really want a cup of coffee,” but I really wake up thinking about my family’s health. Sure, I think about how we’re going to build our business, but what I’ve learned over the years is that if your family is healthy, everything else is secondary.
Describe a lesson you’ve learned from a failure. The big one came when the economy collapsed and we were left with an unsustainable capital structure. And while we never dreamed it was unsustainable going in, you have to say you failed in not anticipating the economy’s collapse. Pulling out of that is probably the most gratifying thing of my career, and the lesson I learned is that the 100-year flood occurs every three years.
What will define your career in the coming year? Clearly the rollout of our Nextradio app that enables a user’s smartphone to work like an FM tuner without using data. I have said for many years that we as an industry must solve the portability riddle. We used to sell 40 million Walkmen, now we don’t. There is one device everybody carries, and there is a natural advantage there for an over-the-air signal we can take advantage of. We’re free, we don’t drain much battery power and don’t charge people data. That is a tremendous series of advantages, but we as an industry have to overcome obstacles and get it done. The automobile and the smartphone are the two places [radio] has to be, and we have to be competitive.
Who’s your most important mentor, and what did you learn? Irv Katz, who is 94 years old now, was our accountant and financial adviser. I would take business plans to him in the beginning and he gave me the confidence that I needed at a very early age. He taught me you have to understand how all the numbers work to make a business work. Jerry Rheinsdorf was sort of a big brother to me in baseball and still is now. He advised me, as we’ve looked at certain deals, you don’t ever do good business with bad people. That’s a bit of advice that’s been very helpful.
Name a project you’re not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the past year. Some of the initiatives in the industry focused on sales. I may disagree with Clear Channel on the overall focus of what iHeartRadio should be, but some of their sales projects and their metrics have been impressive. Some of CBS’ initiatives have been impressive, including the one they just announced with Nielsen Audio for cross-platform [ratings] measurement. There are a lot of creative ideas in this industry — we just need to work together on them. When you have an industry that’s growing by 1%, you have to work together and you can’t dismiss anything.
Name a desert island album. I take my 9-year-old to school every morning and she started loving listening to Beatles songs. So I’d probably say “Revolver.”