After more than four decades on the airwaves in Atlanta, Neal Boortz this morning announced that he is ending his syndicated talk show on January 21, 2013, replaced by former presidential candidate Herman Cain.
Cain will cohost the day the president elect is officially inaugurated and then takes over solo on Tuesday, January 22.
“I’m going to miss everything associated with doing a talk show,” Boortz said on air as his producer Belinda Skelton teared up.
He said he is not doing this for health reasons. “I am not doing this because I’m fixing to die,” he said. “I have absolutely no health problems period.” Rather, he wants to travel with his wife Donna, something he said is difficult to do as a full-time talk-show host. He even purchased a tour bus to rove the country.
“We’re going to call this Neal’s happy ending,” he added later with a glint in his eye.
After his first break, post announcement, associate producer Christina Gonzalez popped the champagne. Cain ambled in a few minutes later and grabbed a glass. “Mr. Boortz,” he said. “Your announcement was pure Boortz.”
Boortz, 67, has been the longest running talk show host on Atlanta radio. He is now heard locally on 95.5FM and AM750 News/Talk WSB from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.
On December 5, 2012, he said he’s going to take the month off. After New Year’s, he will work until January 21.
“Neal is my brother from another mother,” Cain said on air. “Congratulations on the retirement. Congratulations on 42 years in this business.”
Boortz said he will do daily commentaries for Cain and will be a fill in for Cain and Erick Erickson, who is heard on WSB from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights. Currently, Cain has been the primary fill in for Boortz.
Boortz estimated since he started in radio, he has taken 280,000 phone calls. “And 260,000 got cut off,” he said.
During a break, Skelton said Boortz intimated to her two years ago that he wanted to retired in early 2013. “It always seemed so far away,” she said. “For the past year, my stomach has been in absolute knots. It was hard for him. He loves what he does.”
Program Director Pete Spriggs said he was aware of Boortz’s intentions but they agreed to make this announcement relatively early. “He wanted it off his chest,” Spriggs said. At the same time, Spriggs wanted to have a successor ready to go so he was glad to convince Cain to take over.
“I feel great,” Boortz said on air at 11:18 a.m. when fellow syndicated host Clark Howard stopped by. “Last week, I felt really down. Right now, I’m feeling great. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. But I have no doubt I made the right decision.”
In 1970, on what was then called 680/WRNG-AM in Atlanta, Boortz took over for a morning host who had just committed suicide – a story he loves to tell.
He earned a law degree and juggled radio and a private practice from 1977 to 1992.
Boortz joined WSB in 1993 when it was just on the AM side. He’s a workaholic who spends four and a half hours on air every day, longer than most hosts, and Tweets several times a day.
A self-proclaimed Libertarian, Boortz usually supports Republican policies and candidates but isn’t always in line with them on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and drug enforcement. He espouses smaller government but has been more hawkish about terrorism after 9/11 than many Libertarians.
He portrays himself as an entertainer and castigates people who merely echo what he says and don’t think for themselves. His daily line about himself: “Home of the high priest of the Church of the Painful Truth.”
Boortz has written four books. The most impactful was 2005’s “The Fair Tax Book,” which advocates dropping the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax. In a press conference early Monday afternoon, Boortz said he is working on another book about stories as a radio host and plans to release it as an e-book.
He demurred when asked about a future in politics after he retires but didn’t say no. He did acknowledge his wife Donna is highly active in the Mitt Romney campaign.
Although Boortz still has a home in Atlanta, he now spends most of his time in Naples, Fla. He grew up in several different places, including Florida, attended Texas A&M and spent several years in various professions before radio such as jewelry and carpet buyer, insurance salesman and a speech writer.
He has been lauded by radio groups across the nation over the years, entering the national Radio Hall of Fame in 2009.
Cain, a 66-year-old former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, joined WSB in 2008 as an evening talk show host until early 2011, when he decided to run for president. His bid ended in December. Since January, he has provided daily commentaries on Boortz’s show and has continued to sub in for Boortz.
Cain’s radio footprint will now be national. Boortz is heard on about 240 radio stations. Talkers magazine, which tracks talk radio, estimates Boortz draws more than six million listeners a week, tied with Laura Ingraham for seventh.
“For all practical purposes,” Cain said on the air, “I am done with politics. Essentially, I wanted to continue to express my views and help educate people on what’s going on in this country.”
Cain will do his show each day from 9 a.m. to noon. “That is still a significant commitment a day,” he said during a press conference Monday afternoon. “When I subbed in for his four and a half hours, it was exhausting!”
Dan Kearney, market manager for Cox Radio Atlanta, said WSB will decide later what it will do with the noon to 1 p.m. slot, as well as 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. He also noted that Cain has huge name recognition, even better than Boortz, thanks to his presidential run.
Cain said he had other offers, including TV and radio gigs. But this syndication deal was the most enticing. It will allow him to make TV appearances and do speeches across the country. He declined to say how long his deal will last.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk