- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has hired Clear Channel Radio’s top local executive to lead a new broadcasting company that will air the team’s games starting next season.

Bennett Zier, vice president for Clear Channel Radio’s Washington-Baltimore region, yesterday was named chief executive officer of Red Zebra Broadcasting, which will buy and run radio, television and Internet properties regionally and nationally.

Industry sources said Mr. Snyder will soon announce that he has purchased three local radio stations — WBPS-FM 94.3, WBZS-FM 92.7 and WKDL-AM 730 — which currently air Spanish-language programming and are owned by Mega Communications LLC in Orlando, Fla.

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson yesterday referred all questions to Mr. Zier.

“Dan Snyder came to me with an opportunity to run my own business,” Mr. Zier said. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a CEO.

“We will be announcing our first acquisition next week,” and will reveal the future radio home of Redskins’ games, he said, refusing to comment further. His last day at Clear Channel will be tomorrow; he starts at Red Zebra on Monday.

Jeff Stein, vice president of sales for Mega, earlier this week said the Washington stations were not being sold. He did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Radio industry analysts said the Mega stations’ signal strength may not please Redskins fans.

“They’re not great signals at all, but in terms of gaining entry into the Washington market, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to go,” said Tony Sanders, business editor of Billboard Radio Monitor.

Selling the Spanish-language stations makes sense for Mega because CBS Radio’s WZLL-FM “El Zol 99.1” has a stronger signal and gets better ratings, Mr. Sanders said. But he added that the combined signal strength of Mega’s two FM stations does not cover the entire Washington market and could mean more deals or partnerships are coming.

The Redskins have been carried on CBS Radio’s WJFK-FM 106.7 since 1995.

“We broke off negotiations [last month] having tried in good faith to renew our deal,” said Michael Hughes, general manager of CBS Radio in Washington.

Mr. Hughes said he had no knowledge of Mr. Snyder’s rumored purchase of the Mega stations.

But another industry source said the Mega deal would explain why the Redskins never entered into conversations with other companies interested in broadcasting the team’s games next season.

Mr. Zier said Red Zebra immediately will start recruiting people with radio, television and Internet broadcasting experience to conduct market research before any major acquisitions are made.

Clear Channel owns and operates eight local stations, including WTEM-AM (Sports Talk 980). It is searching for Mr. Zier’s replacement.

A Clear Channel source earlier this week said there had been no communication between Mr. Snyder and Sports Talk 980 executives about operating the future home of Redskins radio.

ABC Radio’s three local stations are reportedly for sale, but the company is trying to sell its stations as a block. Bonneville International, which owns WTOP and other local stations, would be a more likely buyer than Mr. Snyder, Mr. Sanders said.

In addition to owning the Redskins and Red Zebra, Mr. Snyder also runs Red Zone LLC, an Ashburn investment firm, and he recently was named chairman of Six Flags Inc.

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