The New York Times obit of radio entrepreneur and pioneer Michael A. Wiener includes comments from Howard Stern.
Wiener died from cancer on Sunday at age 71 in Santa Cruz. He formed a group of stations with business partner Gerald Carrus that began in 1972 with KOME-FM San Jose. It eventually became Infinity Broadcasting.
Along the way, Wiener and Carrus hired Mel Karmazin to run the company, and one of his hires was Stern. Stern told the Times:
- [Wiener] was a very innovative guy who took a big risk in life. They started in medium markets and worked their way into larger markets. People may say that is no big deal, but you can’t believe the number of radio stations that go under. And they were smart enough to hire Mel and give him the freedom to do his thing. There were not a lot of people who would take a risk on me.
The Times’ obit notes that Wiener had his greatest business success in 1996 with the sale of his company but just a year later he suffered his greatest tragedy when his only son, Gabe, a producer of classical music, died of a brain aneurysm at age 26.
Wiener is survived by his wife; his daughter, Jenny Steingart of New York; and two grandchildren.
Radio Business Report notes:
- Wiener and Carras were always quiet moguls, letting Karmazin be the public face of Infinity. Although many people referred to Karmazin as the “owner” of Infinity, the two founders always held most of the equity. They clearly became billionaires when Infinity was sold to Westinghouse in a stock swap for $4 billion in 2000. RBR/TVBR later estimated that their fortunes had doubled again by the time of the Viacom merger. Whether the two still hold shares in the present day Viacom and CBS, or whether they cashed out along the way, is unknown.