The Men of Clear Channel
Clear Channel is a big company. I’ve worked with a few individuals there, but never with the company as a whole.
I feel it is important to hear what they have to say, and give you a glimpse of four people behind the scenes: Charlie Mancuso, Roy Janson, Ken Hudgens, and Todd Jendro.
RJ: Charlie, what is your background that brought you to this point of being President of the Motorsports division?
Charlie: Rick, from 1977 to 1984 I managed an arena in St. Louis called the St. Louis Checker Dome. It was owned by Ralston-Purina. From 1984 thru 1988 I had my own promoting and production company. We promoted and co-promoted shows like the Harlem-Globetrotters, Sesame Street Live, Horse shows, NCAA basketball games, and a variety of different motorsports events.
Thru those motorsports events I developed a relationship with Pace, and SRO/Pace which was a joint venture. That relationship grew over the next four years, and in 1988, SRO/Pace, which was lead by Alan Becker, offered me a job as General Manager/President of the joint venture. So I’ve been with this company that is now Clear Channel Entertainment Motorsports since 1988.
RJ: Roy, please give us a little background on who you are and what you do.
Roy: I’m Vice President of Operations for Clear Channel’s Motorsports division, so I oversee both our motorcycle and truck properties. I also oversee our race track in Donington, England, and our race shop in North Carolina.
I started by sweeping the floor of a Triumph shop in Rochester, New York in 1964. I was a dirt track rider back in the 60′s before motocross became popular. I had my Novice license, and almost had enough points to get my Junior license.
Then motocross came to the US. I became a pro motocross racer, raced in the Winter-AMA Series in Florida, and continued racing thru college and graduate school while I was working on my Masters degree. I was always involved in motorcycling, and I managed Yamaha and Kawasaki dealerships while I was in Rochester.
In 1980, I had an opportunity to work for the AMA in their Government Relations department. I dealt primarily with land use issues. My Masters degree is in Geology, so I had a background in land, besides motorcycles. I did that for six years, and at the same time starting in 1983 I helped launch an ATV program, including Pro ATV’s. In 1987 Ned Redway left as the Motocross Manager, and the AMA was without one. I took over that job as Motocross Manager, and it was a wonderful chance to get into and learn the racing side of the AMA. From ’87 – ’94 I was Motocross Manager and then Pro-Racing Manager.
I left the AMA in August of 1994. My new job allowed me to work with all the supercross promoters. That included Super Sports and Bill West, SRO, Pace, and Mickey Thompson. At that time I was the coordinator of all the supercross events for those companies.
As there was a consolidation in the sport of supercross, I became a Pace employee. From Pace it became SFX. And now it’s Clear Channel.
My original job at Pace was Supercross Manager, and now I’ve grown into Vice President of Operations for the company.
That’s 37 years in the motorcycle business. The only time I was not in it was when I was serving in the US Marine Corp. during 68 – 70.
RJ: Semper Fi!
Roy: Yep. I’ve been fortunate to see this from both sides, from sanctioning to promoters. While I was at the AMA I never fully understood the role of promoters. Now that I work with the promoters, I have a much better understanding of this side of the business. It’s been an education to see it from both sides, and I’m very fortunate to be able to experience a lot of people’s dreams. Two times I was manager of the Motocross des Nations team. Motorcycling has been very good to me.
RJ: I’ve heard a lot of different perspectives on the privateer issues. Tell us what the Clear Channel program is for that.
Roy: Our privateer program has been established for several years. It’s important to differentiate between reality and comments that were made previously by Jam Sports. Specifically, there are two quotes to be addressed. In paraphrasing, one says that the privateers have been abused for too long. And another says that they are working on a privateer fund and have been doing so long before Clear Channel rushed out their’s.
These comments are made by people that are unaware that Clear Channel, and it’s predecessors SFX and Pace, have had a dedicated privateer point fund over $100,000 per year. That $100,000 point fund is paid exclusively to privateers. That $100,000, plus the winner’s bonus for top privateer, exceeds annually any amount of exclusive privateer money paid out in all the AMA events combined.
It is important to identify that no one from Clear Channel rushed out to invent a privateer program. What we did for this year is take the program from $110,000 to $160,000, and add another $75,000 to the Last Chance Qualifier purses for the entire year. That’s in excess of $200,000 above the established point funds, purses, and other bonus programs that have been initiated by Clear Channel over the past few years.
RJ: How about 2003? Anything different for that?
Roy: Yes. We have announced an additional $75,000 that will go into the privateer funds for 2003. That takes that funding for privateers, which is independent of the other programs, over a quarter million dollars for the year.
There is no comparable program available in motocross, or road racing, that is sanctioned by the AMA and dominated by factory teams.
RJ: Some people view Clear Channel as a nameless & faceless corporate giant. What can you do about that?
Roy: I can see where part of that is true. I’ve read reports about Clear Channel being a faceless entity. That couldn’t be further from reality. The fact is people that are involved in our motorcycle programs have a passion for motorcycling.
I’ve worked my entire life in the motorcycle business. The head of our Arenacross and Motorcycle properties is a person named Mike Kidd. Mike is a former Grand National Champion, and his history is well recorded. Our Director of Supercross Todd Jendro is a former professionally licensed motocross rider. Our Assistant Director of Supercross Joel Grover is a long time motorcyclist and former pro ATV racer. Mike Hathaway, Rich Winkler … the list goes on and on. The people involved in running our programs have extensive background and a passion for the sport of motorcycling.
And the question comes up ‘Who is the caretaker of the sport?’. Sometimes we are labeled as the people with the Monster Trucks. Yes, we own 20 Monster Trucks, and we produce over 150 of those events per year.
We also produce 17 national Arenacross events, and 30-plus regional events – all of these exclusively feature motorcycle activities. In addition to that, we produce and sanction thru our Formula USA affiliate the Championship Cup Series sportsman road race program. That has over 60 sportsman events, along with the 10 National Road Race series events, and 15 National Dirt Track events.
When you look at the shear number of motorcycling events produced by Clear Channel with CCS, National Road Race series, National Dirt Track series, regional and National Arenacross, and Supercross, it’s an extensive number. This brings into motorcycling many thousands of riders in both road and off-road.
RJ: What do you want the typical fan to know?
Roy: I think they know what our positions are. We do our business in public. And our business is there to be critiqued every Saturday night.
They witness the events, and we pride ourselves on producing entertaining, exciting sporting contests. We don’t regulate the competition side of the activity. We contract with the AMA to deliver the competition program. That’s what they get paid a sanction fee for. They enter the riders, they keep the entry fees, and they deliver that program.
In other types of motorcycling we deliver that program ourselves.
I would ask the fans to judge us on our 27 year history of producing supercross events. Our history in motorcycling even extends beyond that, to February 1967 when we produced the first AMA short track and TT events at the Houston Astrodome. The first events produced by Pace as a company were motorcycle events. Look at our investment in the sport over this period, our commitment to constantly producing higher quality shows, and the results that we’ve produced in the areas of live audience, television, Pay-Per-View, the Internet, and the level of sponsorship that we’ve been able to bring into the program. Also look at the returns we’ve been able to put back to the riders and sponsors who participate in those programs. Judge us on our track record – we’ve been successful in what we’ve set out to do. Our commitment has been unwavering for more than 30 years.
RJ: Ken, you are Vice President of Marketing. What can you tell me about Clear Channel Motorsports and the people that run it?
Ken: Obviously you know Charlie and Roy. I’m responsible for all the marketing aspects including the selling of tickets, the creative, and radio/television advertising. For the past 10 years I’ve been responsible for sales, the Internet, merchandise, and others. I’m like’ a ‘jack of all trades’.
We have our different roles, and we work well together. The team that runs the motorsports division here at Clear Channel has been together quite a while. And of course we’ve gotten quite a bit larger as to the number of events we’ve done over the years. Roy and Todd are responsible for all the operations for supercross, and that means putting on the event, interacting with the competitors, the officials, getting the dirt transported in and out of the stadiums, coordinating the facilities, and hiring the correct people to help. I focus on selling tickets & sponsorships. Mike Weber is our Vice President for television, and he’s responsible for the supercross events you see on ESPN, ABC, and Pay-Per-View.
RJ: A lot of companies have produced supercross events. Some have succeeded, some have not. Plus we have new promoters on the horizon. How can Clear Channel do a better job at putting on supercross events than other companies?
Ken: In regards to future promoting, I really think the question should be reversed: How can anyone do a better job than we do? I am not saying that we are perfect. But we do put our money where our mouth is. Our results speak for themselves over many, many years. To have newcomers that have no experience in motorcycling, and expect them to provide the same level of commitment to the sport doesn’t seem to be right to me.
To answer your question specifically on how we would do a better job, it’s our monetary commitment and experienced people we have in place.
RJ: How about television – what’s planned for 2002 and beyond?
Ken: In 2001 we had supercross on ABC three times. All of them were in April. We looked back at that, and wanted to increase our commitment by adding another race, and spreading that coverage out to almost one per month. We’ll be on ABC four times this year. Those Saturday night events air the next day, Sunday afternoon. So we have one per month January, February, March, and April. Then we have the Pay-Per-View from Las Vegas for the finale.
We don’t do Pay-Per-View to make big profits as some think. Right now it’s a break-even arrangement. But it is the best way right now to get supercross live. It’s not a financial windfall, but we are trying to take the right steps for the sport. And that includes what we do with ESPN and ABC as well. We want to increase the number of people the sport is exposed to.
RJ: What else can you do to help our sport?
Ken: There are many things we are doing. Obviously network television is where you are going to reach the casual fans. We don’t just want to reach the die-hard fan, but all fans. We want to expose the sport to as many people as possible.
Another aspect is the Internet. And you are in that business – you know what an expensive endeavor that is. We are and will be making those investments because it’s good for the sport, it’s good for business, and it’s good for fans.
RJ: All the rumors I hear say that Clear Channel is so big it can control venues and facilities. Can you comment about that?
Ken: Facilities are always free to do what they want to. The facility business & booking of events is something we are intimately involved in. We don’t do just 15 supercrosses. We do 15 supercrosses, 45 arenacrosses, 150 Monster Truck shows, 12 professional bull riding events, and others. We are involved in booking facilities every day. Does it help when you have multiple events to bring to places like the Pontiac Silverdome where we do three or four events per year there? Absolutely. In some cases we do have protection periods which protect not only our business but the facility as well. It’s not good business sense to bring in a Monster Truck show one weekend, and they bring in someone else’s Monster Truck show the next weekend. Those events would just hurt each other, not only for the promoters, but also for the facility.
Facilities are widely varied in how they are managed. Some are state owned, some are city owned, and some are privately owned. In the case of supercross, let’s take Edison International Field in Anaheim – that’s owned by Disney, which is a publicly held company. And then you have places like Phoenix which is run by Maricopa County Stadium District. You have the Silverdome which is managed by the city of Pontiac. You have Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego which is city owned. All have different criteria by which they operate.
I know there has been some words about Clear Channel doing things a particular way, but we are conducting business as we always have.
RJ: With the AMA announcing their relationship with Jam Sports, it seems like there has been a flurry of press releases from Clear Channel. Is that true?
Ken: We’ve had press releases for a couple of reasons. We are moving forward. Remember, we are not the ones that came out with a press release on November 5th that we are going to do anything different. We are simply responding. We want people to know we are stable, and it’s business as usual. The AMA press release made it sound as if the AMA had picked another promotional partner, and we are not a promotional partner. We take 100% of the risk of putting on events. We’ve done that for 27 years. We write all the checks. There is no promotional partner with us.
Our press releases have been designed to demonstrate to the industry that we are stable, and telling the industry what they need to know for 2003. And that includes our specific schedule, what we are doing on television, who specifically is going to design and build our tracks, what venues we will be at, this is what the points fund is going to be, that ClearChannel.com is adding $75,000 to the privateer fund on top of the UST’s $50,000 and the $100,000 we already pay out to make it $225,000 for privateers for 2002.
What we are trying to tell the motorcycle industry and motorcycle community of which we are part of is that we are not doing anything different at our events, and here is specifically what we are doing. And we are not just supercross. 45 arenacrosses with over 20,000 amateur entries. The releases are a reaction to the AMA’s decision. We are going about business as usual, we are not doing anything differently, and the community needs to know we are stable.
RJ: If there are two series starting in 2003, will it hurt the sport?
Ken: Yes, no question about it. Any one that thinks it will do anything but hurt the sport, …. then I’m not sure what they are thinking about. It will hurt the riders, the fans, television viewers, contingency, and sponsors. And it will hurt Clear Channel and the AMA. It will hurt the motorcycle industry in general. I can’t think of any group of people that have a vested interest in motorcycle racing, or selling motorcycles, or after market products that it will benefit.
RJ: I’m a privateer. I’m trying to break into the sport. I’m struggling to get from race to race. I’m sleeping in the back of my van. I’m barely making a living. What do you say to me that will make me want to run your events over any others?
Ken: That was partially answered before. I think there are two ways to answer that. Number one is we are stepping up our commitment. In 2001 we paid $100,000 to privateers above and beyond our normal points payout. Now, on top of that amount, UST has stepped up with another $50,000. $25,000 of that goes to the top privateer at the end of the series. And as we announced, ClearChannel.com has added another $75,000. A large part of that money is going to people in the Last Chance Qualifier. That is a huge financial commitment.
Number two is to look at the past results. Look at the facilities, look at how the races are run, the routing for the riders, mechanics, and teams. Look at how it was back when you were racing – it wasn’t uncommon to send everyone from one end of the country to the other without thinking about everything involved in that.
RJ: I know. That was a long time ago. We didn’t even have fossil fuels back then! (Both laugh)
Ken: We’ve made a concerted effort, especially since 1996 to improve the routing. We don’t start in Orlando, go to Anaheim, and then jump to Indianapolis. We did that because everyone in the sport asked for better and more sensible routing. Now it’s less burden on not only the privateers, but race teams as well.
In terms of focus, finances, and history, we are putting together a great program. And it can only get better.
RJ: To your knowledge, has anyone from Clear Channel been in contact with anyone from Jam Sports since the announcement by the AMA?
Ken: No. Nor have they been in contact with us. Not sure what there would be to talk about.
RJ: It appears as though Clear Channel and the AMA have not had a ‘good’ relationship over the past few years. What has sparked the poor relationship?
Ken: I can speculate on what it is, but I really don’t know. What I do know is that we offered to substantially increase the sanction fee that we pay them on a per event basis. As I’ve said previously, the AMA is walking away from a guaranteed seven million dollars over seven years.
In addition to that sanction fee, they retain the license fees, the mechanics fees, entry fees, and our fee for their officials and rider medical services they provide. We also offered to have all of our dirt track, road racing, and arenacross to be AMA sanctioned.
We’re offering to pay them a bunch more money for nothing different in return. And we offered to sanction all of our other events by them, which seem to be such an issue, and we still don’t have a deal. I don’t have the foggiest idea what their intent is.
RJ: Is there still a possibility of Clear Channel and the AMA working this thing out?
Ken: From the beginning, we’ve made it clear that it is in everyone’s best interest to have things go on as they were. Everything that we have done up to this point has been done with the idea of keeping the door open enough to make a deal if the AMA wants to, and is not in some way committed to Jam Sports. I don’t know what the relationship is between the AMA and Jam Sports is. The announcement the AMA put out makes it seem like a ‘Letter of Intent’. It is in everyone’s best interest to work it out. But the door is opening and closing quickly – everyone needs to get on with their business.
RJ: I’m going to fire off a couple of quick questions. Who is in charge of the purse monies?
Ken: Clear Channel pays the purse monies.
RJ: Who is in charge of safety and insurances?
Ken: We pay the AMA a fee, and they provide the rider medical insurance. All the other insurances that go into putting on a live event, such as protecting the spectators, and insurance to protect against damage to the facility, we pay for that.
There are quite a few issues regarding safety. Safety and security for the fans, we pay for that. That includes security guards, ushers, and more.
RJ: Who collects entry fees?
Ken: The AMA.
RJ: How about mechanics passes?
Ken: The AMA.
RJ: How about gate receipts from ticket sales?
Ken: Clear Channel. And that’s because we take 100% of the risk. If no one shows up, we still pay for the facility, advertising, the dirt, and everything else. We pay for everything.
RJ: Who gets the parking monies?
Ken: It’s different at each facility. Generally, they pay their employees, and we don’t participate in those revenues. Same for food and beverage concessions.
RJ: How about merchandise such as shirts, hats, etc.?
Ken: There are three answers to that. Us, the facility, and royalties that are paid to riders and others.
RJ: OK, we know a bit about the motorsports division. Tell me a little bit about Clear Channel as a whole. What other things is Clear Channel involved in?
Ken: Clear Channel Worldwide has several different divisions. Clear Channel Worldwide includes Entertainment, which we are a part of, Radio, Outdoor, and some other smaller ones. There is the radio division – over 1200 radio stations across the country. There is the billboard division – which is outdoor advertising. That’s over 770,000 billboard faces all over the world. There is Clear Channel Entertainment – theatrical, music, motorsports, and family. That includes the theatrical division that produces Broadway shows. The music division not only promotes events, but also owns and operates amphitheaters across the country. There is the family division that promotes and produces shows such as Scooby Doo live. It’s a very diversified company.
RJ: With Clear Channel being a publicly traded company, and how the stock market is currently, do you have added pressure to perform and make profits?
Ken: I think we are all under pressure, not only because Clear Channel is a publicly held and traded company, but because there is always pressure to produce. Since September 11, Clear Channel Entertainment and Clear Channel Worldwide, and many other businesses all over the country have struggled a bit.
Everything we know right now, based on the events of things that have happened since September 11th, such as pre-sale items for the first supercross events are very strong. We aren’t under any more, or less pressure.
RJ: Should anyone even care who puts on a race?
Ken: That is an interesting question. Should the fans care? Yes, we believe that they should.
Much like Intel computing chips are branded with computers …. they are not the main part, but with their name you know it’s a quality product. We’ve always taken the position that we should be viewed like that. The stars of supercross are Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ezra Lusk, Mike LaRocco, Travis Pastrana, Kevin Windham, and others. That’s what the fans care about. They care about what happens on the track.
They also care about where the events are … how it’s presented on television …. and what sponsors are trying to make it better. Fans don’t consciously think about who is doing that. Those are things that we’ve done, and are proud of. And we plan on continuing to do that.
RJ: In closing, is there anything you’d like to say to our audience?
Ken: Yes, a couple of things. Please keep in mind we are not doing anything different. On November 5th, the AMA Pro-Racing Board announced that they are doing something different. We are doing what we have always done.
It’s a shame, because what should be one of the most exciting seasons in supercross history, and has a lot of great stories, is getting overshadowed right now by conflict.
We are focused on producing the 2002 events as the best in history. I think that’s what the fans want to be focused on now as well.
|Todd Jendro – Director of Supercross CCEM|
RJ: Todd, how about your background? How did you get to be Director of Supercross for Clear Channel Entertainment’s Motorsports division?
Todd Jendro: I started racing motocross in 1978. I acquired my Pro-Am license in 1988. I rode the Pontiac Silverdome event twice, but I didn’t qualify for the mains. I quit professional racing in 1991.
RJ: That’s a good year to quit racing! (Both laugh – Rick quit that year too)
Todd: I shattered my wrist while warming up for the Red Bud National MX. I had surgery to put pins in the wrist, and decided my professional mx career surely wasn’t meant to be.
RJ: OK, that’s something else we have in common – shattered wrists! (Both laugh)
Todd: Yeah, naviculars and meta-carpuls!
In 1994 I decided to work for DGY Racing in Downers Grove, Illinois. I worked with them on local and amateur events. Jimmy at DGY knew promoters, at that time it was SRO Motorsports out of Chicago. They produced six of the supercross events, and eventually they hooked me up with Roy (Janson). That’s how I got started there.
RJ: What do you do as Director of Supercross?
Todd: I oversee every aspect, and every moving element of supercross. From the first drop of dirt that comes in to rider relations to sponsorship implementation. I run a crew of 80 people on site, and they all help out for the presentation you see at a supercross.
RJ: How aggravating are past supercross champions when they are bugging you for tickets?
Todd: Actually Ricky, you are pretty good. I’ve had some other guys (they’ll remain nameless here) who have asked for 125 tickets.
RJ: Well, can we renegotiate on my tickets then? (Both laugh)