January 10, 2007


He Wuz Rob-bed: For Seattle's biggest-spending liberal benefactor, bankrupt Air America was a costly flyer. (Rick Anderson, 1/10/07, Seattle Weekly)

Deep-pocketed political donor Rob Glaser undertook his biggest-ever political investment in 2004 when he handed over $10 million to prop up lefty talk-show network Air America Radio, giving him 36.7 percent ownership. But while the founder and CEO of Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc. successfully helped fund the 2006 Democratic revolt in Congress, he has been bloodied attempting a similar revolution in progressive talk radio. The network's challenge to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talkers for the nation's hearts, minds, and ad revenues has ended up in bankruptcy, and Glaser, chair of the Air America board the past two years, faces millions in personal losses.

He had already surrendered his network chairmanship by the time Air America Radio (AAR) and its parent corporation, Piquant LLC--Glazer's investment group--filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October hoping to stay on the air while it reorganized and worked out a deal with its creditors, the biggest of which is Glaser. According to federal court records in New York, the network has $20.2 million in liabilities and $4.3 million in assets. Glaser's investment share is listed at $9.8 million, which he most likely will lose, in addition to $475,000 he loaned the company--albeit small change to Glaser, whose personal worth is estimated by Fortune at close to $1 billion. His company, RealNetworks, is also owed $85,000, and former RealNetworks exec Eileen Quigley of Seattle is owed $29,000 in back wages and compensation, according to the filings.

AAR spokesperson Jaime Horn says a new network buyer has signed a letter of intent and a deal will be completed "any day now," likely allowing Air America to exit bankruptcy. The rumored purchaser is Terry Kelly, who helped found the network and served as its board chair until he was replaced by Glaser, though he stayed on as a partner in Piquant.

But even new ownership will have a struggle to keep the network together.

You had to pretty badly misunderstand radio audiences to think it had any better shot at flying than the A-380.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 10, 2007 5:09 PM

I don't think people gave Piquant enough credit for their business acumen. By filing bankruptcy, they avoided, paying back the money they stole from that Boys and Girls Club. Screw those dirty little Puerto Rican and Black kids. The Progressives need the money.

Posted by: AllenS at January 10, 2007 5:28 PM

You also gotta remember that their business model was severely flawed; stations that carried Air America programming were REQUIRED not to carry Rush or any other conservative talk program - even though their best chance for gaining market share was to follow a program like Rush on the premise of "equal time". Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit (VERY haughty, in the case of Al Franken) before the fall.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at January 10, 2007 6:31 PM

I thought I read (on the Internet, so it must be true, natch) that Air America never wanted to make revenue, anymore than someone creating a political ad wants revenue. All they wanted was to spread their message without running afoul of campaign-finance laws. Basically, they're a 24-hour end-run around CFR.

Posted by: Just John at January 10, 2007 6:43 PM

Your comment is unfair to Airbus - the A380 may never make any money, but it flew. And the sight of 3 of them flying in formation was something.

Air America was a fraud from the beginning, and went downhill from there. Al Franken's demand to be paid up front was a good indicator.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 11, 2007 12:21 AM

I'll solve their financial problems: Don't pay their employees, and distribute content via podcasts. Done.

Posted by: RC at January 11, 2007 6:50 AM

As if I needed another reason to hate RealNetworks.

Posted by: Bryan at January 11, 2007 8:18 AM

Air America broadcast, it's just no one listened. A couple A-380s flew, but no one will buy or land them--except a few totalitarian state airlines that don't need public permission to land them.

Posted by: oj at January 11, 2007 8:42 AM

Regarding the boy/girls club scandal: the Seattle story says the money was paid back - as
Glaser promises...except that it took the billionaire a year to do it.

Posted by: JayStar at January 12, 2007 7:06 PM