NAB Will ‘Throw a Wide Net’ in Search for New Leader

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The search is on to find a successor for Eddie Fritts now that he has announced he is ready to end his 23-year run as president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

But the NAB board’s executive committee plans to take its time to find the right candidate for a post that pays in excess of $1 million a year.

“We’re going to throw a wide net,” said Phil Lombardo, NAB joint board chairman, CEO of Citadel Communications and co-chairman of NAB’s search committee.

Names of potential candidates were swirling in Washington’s rumor mill even before Mr. Fritts announced his retirement plan. Two names that keep floating to the top: Mitch Rose, VP of government relations for The Walt Disney Co., and Martin Franks, executive VP at CBS Television. Mr. Rose was formerly a top aide to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Mr. Lombardo said no candidates were yet officially under consideration, and that the hiring decision would ultimately be up to the NAB board’s executive committee. He said candidates would be recommended by a search firm that was expected to be assigned to the case before the convention.

Mr. Lombardo also said NAB is open to considering industry officials and inside-the-Beltway types. “We need someone who understands the issues and understands our business,” he said.

Taking the pressure off NAB’s need to act quickly is Mr. Fritts’ existing contract, which expires in April 2006. A contract provision ensures that he will be able to serve as president at least until September 2005.

“We’re not pressed for time here,” Mr. Lombardo said. “That’s why it will be a very orderly and methodical process.”

If history repeats, the NAB executive committee won’t have to look any further than the search committee itself. Mr. Fritts chaired the last such committee in 1982, then resigned and sought the top NAB position for himself. The committee initially recommended another candidate.

Mr. Lombardo, however, denied any interest in assuming the current opening. “No way,” he said.

David Kennedy, president and CEO of Susquehanna Media and NAB search committee co-chair, did not return telephone calls.

The eight members of the NAB executive committee who ultimately will make the hire are Mr. Lombardo; Mr. Kennedy; David Field, president and CEO of Entercom Communications; Andrew Fisher, president of Cox Television; Alan Frank, president and CEO of Post-Newsweek Stations; Bruce Reese, president and CEO of Bonneville International; Benjamin Tucker, acting president and CEO of Fisher Broadcasting; and W. Russell Withers Jr., owner of Withers Broadcasting.