Don buchwald, Agent

Converting old radio's hot item to satellite star takes publicist to new heights

By Published on .

On howard stern's last morning on terrestrial radio, he and his media circus boarded a double-decker bus for a victory lap through Midtown Manhattan and a rabble-rousing speech in Times Square. The Dec. 16, 2005, spectacle was streamed live on Yahoo and broke the Web giant's then-record for simultaneous streams at 214,000.

This is just one of the publicity blitzes that Don Buchwald has engineered since taking on Mr. Stern as a client in 1984. He has shepherded the shock jock through myriad career highlights-including the publicity climax of Mr. Stern's 2006 migration to the uncensored haven of satellite radio.

A savvy agent who approves Mr. Stern's every media move, Mr. Buchwald not only orchestrated the morning man's multi-million-dollar move to Sirius but has built him into a cottage industry that counts among its assets two radio channels, a video-on-demand service and an annual film festival.

Mr. Buchwald, a tough-as-nails negotiator who in the mid-'80s strong-armed former CBS chief Mel Karmazin into syndicating the New York native Mr. Stern in Los Angeles, wooed his star client with the Sirius Satellite Radio's $500 million, five-year contract.

It's hard to know who benefited more from Mr. Stern's move to Sirius, the talent, who got a plum $720 million (including stock options), or the company, whose subscribers ballooned from 662,000 the day Mr. Stern's move was announced to 3.3 million at the end of 2005, just days before Mr. Stern went live. Fourth quarter of '05 was the first quarter Sirius added more sign-ups than XM.

The buzz hasn't gone unnoticed. CBS, Mr. Stern's former employer, has sued Messrs. Buchwald and Stern for alleged breach of contract and fraud stemming from the Sirius contract-it claims Mr. Stern had an undisclosed, $200 million financial incentive to use his old radio show to sell Sirius subscriptions before his satellite-radio contract started Jan. 1.

Legal experts say it's difficult to say which way the case will turn out, but PR experts suggest Messrs. Buchwald and Stern are winning the battle of public perception. Mr. Stern upstaged CBS with a press conference that made the suit look like a case of sour grapes.

Selected for: Howard Stern

* Turned shock jock into a multimedia money-making operation.

* Deal gives Sirius major boost.
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