2 more KHON leaders quit over new owner's layoffs
TWO KHON department heads resigned yesterday, the station's sixth day under new ownership. General Sales Manager Cheryl Oncea and Promotions Director Linda Brock both said they could not support Montecito Broadcast Group LLC'
s planned staff cuts or vision for station operations.
KHON's former senior vice president and general manager, Rick Blangiardi, said much the same thing when he announced his resignation earlier this month.
The department heads would have had to work with new President and General Manager Joe MacNamara to create lists of people to be laid off in two phases.
Contrary to previous information from KHON's former owner, Emmis Communications Corp. , there was no list of KHON employee names drawn up by SJL and given to Emmis for termination, said Montecito's chief executive, George Lilly. That information was reported in the Jan. 21 Star-Bulletin.
There was, however, a savings goal that the cuts were to achieve and a summary of positions to be cut beyond those that would be eliminated due to automation plans, according to sources close to the matter.
"(Today) we're going to start working with department heads to develop our model, build our puzzle and roll it out in a week or so ... a week to a week-and-a-half," MacNamara said yesterday morning.
ERIC ISAACS / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
George Lilly, pictured yesterday at his Montecito, Calif., office on San Ysidro Road, heads the company that now owns KHON in Honolulu.
At a Monday afternoon introductory staff meeting, MacNamara noted that at some companies, higher-paid employees have accepted pay cuts to save the jobs of others, according to an attendee who asked not to be identified.
Department heads considered that their resignations would likely save more jobs than a pay cut.
After notifying their departments, Oncea and Brock each sent farewell e-mails to KHON staff.
Oncea said in her e-mail she was torn between staying to help the department through the transition and taking action "in accordance with my deepest beliefs about what is right and what is wrong." Her last day will be Wed., Feb. 8.
"The last eight years here have been the best years of my entire career. This is a gift that I have been given by every single one of you," she wrote.
Brock has worked at KHON on and off for 22 years. She praised her staff and announced her decision to resign effective yesterday.
MacNamara said he was disappointed to lose them, "but if their hearts are not in it, I understand their decisions to walk away."
"There are many other fine people at the station who do support what's going on and understand that it's just a change that's happening, not only industrywide, but worldwide in all industries," MacNamara said.
KHON anchor Joe Moore told the Star-Bulletin: "Like Rick Blangiardi before them, I consider these resignations the courageous acts of outstanding people, who could not in good conscience carry out the plans of our new owners.
"I'm deeply saddened, and fully expect that other key people at the station will also resign." Moore thanked Oncea and Brock for their contributions and bade them good fortune at the end of the 6 o'clock news last night.
Truth about Montecito
Myths, urban legends and misunderstandings within the broadcast industry were killed during production of this column. However, no animals were harmed, to your columnist's knowledge.
For one, George Lilly is not an heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune.
"The names are spelled the same," Lilly laughed, but elaborated, "My father was a truck driver, my mother was a secretary ... for the local Salvation Army."
He is the chief executive of Montecito Broadcast Group LLC, formerly known as SJL Broadcast Group, based in Montecito, in Santa Barbara. Lilly no longer lives in Montecito, where his former home is valued at nearly $8 million.
Questions about whether the company has a home office arose last week, when concerns previously aired only within KHON's walls were aired on the news.
There is not a single office, but there are three, Lilly said. The home office is at 559 San Ysidro Road, in Montecito, as evidenced by a photo taken by a freelance photographer hired by the Star-Bulletin. SJL is rebranding itself, and the signs on Lilly's office had not been changed when the photo was taken yesterday.
SJL has been in the area quite awhile, and has leased its current office for about a year and a half, according to property manager Barbara Redmond.
Lilly also has an office in his Carpinteria home.
Montecito Broadcast Group LLC was formed in Delaware on Sept. 26, three days before Emmis' announcement that it had sold KHON and three other TV stations to affiliates of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, and SJL.
Chief Operating Officer Sandy Benton has historically operated out of the company's stations and from an office in her home in San Clemente, but now works out of an office complex, Lilly said.
Chief Financial Officer Dave McCurdy and his two staffers share office space in San Luis Obispo.
Day-to-day operations of a station require a local presence, however.
"The important decisions about KHON-TV will not be made in California," Lilly said.
Enter Joe MacNamara at KHON, or "Joe Mac" as he identifies himself in his voice-mail greeting.
He worked at WBNG in Binghamton, N.Y., for 24 years, and was there when SJL bought the station five years ago and had to cut staff to fit the SJL automation model. The staff was reduced from 100 employees to the 58 MacNamara left on Friday.
"We were a big news station. Our news audience went up 10 percent," with only a 1 percent increase in the area's population. "It wasn't because we reduced staff -- we didn't lose any ground," he said.
Of course, increased ratings for a former employer are meaningless to those left jobless.
Montecito will offer fired employees office and computer access to prepare resumes and make calls, MacNamara said. "I want to help with references for anything that they're out there pursuing."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org