Dan Snyder's Radio CEO Calls It Quits

Bennett Zier has quit as chief executive of Dan Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting after 16 months.
Bennett Zier has quit as chief executive of Dan Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting after 16 months. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007

The man who started Redskins owner Dan Snyder's fledgling radio empire has decided to sign off after 16 months on the job. Bennett Zier yesterday resigned as chief executive of Snyder's media operations, saying he was considering "opportunities on a broader scale." He declined to discuss his plans.

The news came as a surprise in radio industry circles, considering Zier's outsize role in building Red Zebra Broadcasting from scratch starting in December 2005. With Snyder's financial backing, Zier acquired five radio stations, including three in the Washington area, with others in Richmond and Norfolk-Virginia Beach.

Snyder subsequently moved broadcasts of Redskins games to the stations and signed Redskins legend John Riggins as the stations' weekday talk-show host.

But listeners have complained that the Washington area stations -- known as Triple X ESPN Radio and broadcasting at 92.7 and 94.3 FM and 730 AM -- have weak signals in some parts of the region. The local stations collectively attracted less than a 1 percent share of the radio audience last fall, or about the same rating they got when they broadcast Spanish-language pop music under another owner a year earlier.

The Triple X stations carry syndicated programs from ESPN and compete directly with sports-talk station WTEM (980 AM). WTEM is owned by radio giant Clear Channel Communications; Snyder lured Zier to Red Zebra from his previous job heading Clear Channel's cluster of stations in the region.

Snyder had envisioned adding TV stations and more radio stations to his portfolio, but Red Zebra hasn't announced an acquisition in months. The company briefly considered acquiring classical station WGMS (103.9, 104.1 FM) in December, but Snyder balked at the selling price and WGMS switched to a pop-music format.

In an interview, Zier called his departure "a little bittersweet" and said he had "mixed emotions" about leaving the company he launched. He said that there wasn't any friction with Snyder and that he considered the owner "a friend and a mentor." Zier also said he intended to continue as an investor in Red Zebra.

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said negotiations with Zier's successor are in the final stages but declined to identify him. "We think Red Zebra is a sound and solid business and will only grow more successful and bigger as more stations are acquired," he said.

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