8 of 9 KHON managers resigning amid cuts
Eight of the nine managers at KHON have now expressed a no-confidence vote in the station's new owners, with their feet. Three more senior managers resigned yesterday, leaving only the station's chief engineer.
The volume of voluntary resignations in protest of a new broadcast owner's plans for staff cuts is unprecedented, according to Rick Blangiardi, who already resigned as the station's senior vice president and general manager.
Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. completed the sale of KHON and three sister stations to Calif.-based Montecito Broadcast Group LLC a week ago.
Joe MacNamara, the new president and general manager of KHON, said he has never heard of any situation like this. "I would be lying to you if I said anything different," he said.
It is not uncommon for a new owner to fire personnel, either for cost-cutting or for replacement by employees of their own choosing, but nobody interviewed by the Star-Bulletin could recall such a willing exodus of people who have no confirmed jobs waiting for them.
Local sales managers Sharon Billingsley and Stuart Chang resigned yesterday. News Director Ron Comings resigned and cleaned out his office.
The trio followed the recent resignations of General Sales Manager Cheryl Oncea, Marketing Director Linda Brock, controller Carrie Castle, Production Manager Jay Park and Jared Kuroiwa, information technology manager.
Blangiardi announced his resignation earlier this month and left KHON just before the new owners took over. He returned to his position at the helm of KGMB, for which Emmis is seeking a buyer.
Blangiardi said he did not orchestrate the exodus before his departure, which other managers confirmed.
"(Blangiardi) told us not to forget that this was his decision, his alone, and that he absolutely did not expect, hope for, or suggest that we follow his lead," Oncea said. "Really, he was so very clear about that."
Park, a father of three, said: "With all due respect to Rick, this is actually bigger than him. To me, this is about what is right and what is wrong. Period."
Blangiardi said he finds the departures "tragic and completely unnecessary. I have complete admiration and respect for our management team and their principles and values. That has been the magic that has helped generate the revitalization and the new-found success we worked for and all experienced together during the last three years."
He said the number of resignations are a direct result of "the shared belief system that has created the culture that existed with that station."
In farewell e-mails to staff, KHON managers said they could not support Montecito's planned firings of one-third of the station's workers or its vision for operating top-rated KHON.
Blangiardi and the department heads were supposed to create lists of employees to be fired to meet Montecito's cost-savings goal and automation model.
MacNamara repeated yesterday that if the managers' hearts weren't committed, "I'm OK with them moving on."
However, the departing leadership's e-mails show their hearts had been committed to making the station the best it could be.
To her sales department colleagues, Billingsley wrote, "I love each of you and this team and the values and vision which we all have embraced on our journey to become the true market leader." She said she could not "reconcile my heart with SJL/Montecito's business model."
Chang has spent the last eight months of his 22 years in television at the station. "The success of KHON lies purely in the hearts of every man and woman at 88 Piikoi. The assets of KHON are clearly in the people, not in the building, nor the equipment," he said.
Blangiardi said the station produced record revenue in 2005. The effort created what Montecito officials last year called "a gem" that they wanted to buy.
Faced with the departures, MacNamara said he will spend the weekend "looking at things."
"I'm talking to several people on the staff who have an interest in stepping up, and if anything, you know, it's going to allow us to transition," he said.