MTV Founder Bob Pittman, Now at Clear Channel, Envisions New Life for Radio

From Wall Street Journal:

At the swanky Hotel du Cap on the French Riviera this spring, Clear Channel Communications Inc. Chief Executive Bob Pittman sponsored a select party for heavy hitters in the advertising world. After cocktails overlooking the sea, the guests dined on foie gras and roasted John Dory as Elton John performed a private concert, playing an oversize piano that had to be airlifted into the hotel.

After almost a decade of self-imposed corporate exile, Mr. Pittman is back in the corporate saddle and on a mission. In his new role heading Clear Channel, the MTV founder and high-profile AOL alum has a grandiose goal: to reinvent radio, a business many have left for dead.

“I’ve not had my adrenaline pumped up like this in years and I forgot how great it feels,” he said, seated in his corner office overlooking Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. “As much as I’ve denied it by trying to stop working, I’m absolutely hard-wired to run companies.”

Mr. Pittman, 58 years old, fled the corporate world in 2002 after exiting the now-broken-up AOL Time Warner in a cloud of recriminations over the ill-fated merger. He retreated to his favorite pastimes, flying his planes and traveling. He later launched a private investment firm with his own money, backing start-ups including email newsletter DailyCandy and the tequila brand Casa Dragones.

Now he’s back in the building where he started MTV and where AOL Time Warner was based after its merger. Gone are the round spectacles and coifed hair from his AOL days, replaced by open-neck shirts and stubble. In an office adorned with models of the jets he has owned over the years and MTV Moonman awards, Mr. Pittman has been plotting a revival rooted in trying to make radio cool again and convincing marketers that radio deserves more than the 6% share of total ad spending it currently commands (television attracts around 50%).

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