Written by Ronald Scaglia Friday, 20 July 2012 08:55It seems that Jeff Warshaw, CEO of Connoisseur Media, was destined to be involved in Long Island radio. Growing up in Roslyn, Warshaw was intrigued by the radio business as his parents owned the Mineola-based radio station, WTHE (1520 AM), and still own it today. Therefore, when Connoisseur Media Group purchased KJOY 98.3 FM (WKJY), WHLI (1100 AM), 94-X (WIGX, 94.3 FM), and B103 (WBZO, 103.1 FM), Warshaw is finally returning to his roots after almost three decades in broadcasting. Yet, as he explains, the synergy and nostalgia of owning stations where he grew up, factored very little into his decision to acquire these stations.
“It’s fun and I’m really gratified by it, but it’s really about our belief that this is a great community to do business in,” says Warshaw of the decision to acquire the four stations. “Maybe I knew them a little bit better than I might know other businesses so I was a little more comfortable with them, but it’s not like I’m buying these stations because I always wanted to come back to Long Island. It’s more like these are great stations, and that’s why we’re buying them, in a great community.”
As Warshaw explains, with his parents in the radio business, he had the opportunity to attend conventions and learn about the business as he was growing up. Then, at age 20, he made his first venture into radio by constructing a station while he was attending the Wharton School of Business, a venture he was joined in by his uncle and his brothers.
“Ultimately, my responsibility was to build it and put it on the air, which I did,” Warshaw says of that experience. “Then we sold it and ultimately took what I made and stared my own business.”
That business, started with a radio station in Flint, Michigan. Before selling that first company in 2000, it had grown to include 39 stations in small and medium markets, mostly in the Midwest, including Rockford, Illinois, and Youngstown, Ohio.
Following that experience, Warshaw started another business, Connoisseur Communications, in 2004, which is now the parent company of these Long Island stations. This company has 24 stations throughout the country, and now has added Long Island to its territory.
“One of the things I always loved about Long Island, is it had the benefit of being near the city, but were communities onto themselves,” says Warshaw of the region where he grew up and is now doing business. “You had all the advantages of being able to go into the city, but there’s a lot of local presence. It’s not just one community. There’s dozens and dozens that are unique and special.”
Throughout his career, Warshaw has met many legendary people from the radio business. He says that he considers it a highlight to have met and done business with Al Kaneb, the previous owner of the Farmingdale radio stations that Connoisseur Media just acquired. He has also been on the air with Howard Stern, when Stern’s show was put on the air in Iowa at a station that was part of one of Warshaw’s companies.
“Just one of the many interesting people I’ve gotten to meet over the years,” he says.
He has also had some interesting experiences. One of these was a business meeting at a graveyard in Iowa. He was negotiating with a competitor to buy his station, who didn’t want anyone to know of the meeting, so it was conducted in the fashion of an espionage movie. It’s just one of the many memories that Warshaw has from a career that he has thoroughly enjoyed.
“It’s this great blend of business and show business,” he says of the radio industry. “I love it. I love our stations being part of the communities, providing service. People really love what we do and we make their lives better.”
Although, Warshaw visits Long Island frequently to visit his parents, he currently resides in Connecticut and doesn’t plan on being extremely hands-on in the operation of the radio stations, which are already quite successful. He says that he will be involved in his company’s strategic decisions such as acquisitions, formats, and the hiring of the most senior level executives. He also says that he wants to maintain the culture at Connoisseur Media of being a great place to work, adding that the company works hard to serve three groups: its clients, it’s communities, and it’s colleagues or personnel.
He said that the staff in place has done a great job and he knows they will continue to do so. And, with KJOY and B103 being top rated stations, he says there are no immediate plans for a shakeup.
“Right now, the staff and the formats are in place,” says Warshaw. “With that having been said, we will constantly try our best to provide the best formats and best programming we can going forward. We do a lot of research and we plan on remaining live and local in Long Island. For the foreseeable future, there should be no change.”