Radio Days

The lobbyist everyone loves to hate has a new gig

Chris Korge has been called a lot of things over the years, but here's a new one: radio magnate. Last month Korge became president of Radio Partners, a group that owns Radio Uno (WKAT-AM 1360), a Spanish-language station catering primarily to Colombians.

Korge and his partners bought the station in August 1999 for a reported sale price of $7.8 million. At the time Korge remained largely behind the scenes, while Gerardo Reyes assumed the public role of general manager. In recent months, however, Korge, Reyes, and the station's other principal partners -- Herb Levin and Adib Eden -- began to disagree over the direction of the operation and its inability to attract more listeners. (Another partner is famed soccer announcer Andres "Goooooooal!" Cantor.)

In January Reyes was removed as the station's general manager and replaced by Korge's brother Andrew, who has previously worked for Paxson Communications and Clear Channel Communications. Reyes, who could not be reached for comment, still owns a piece of the station, Korge says.

Shortly after his brother became the station's general manager, Korge, who says he is Radio Uno's largest individual shareholder, was named the company's president. "I'm taking a much more active role in the day-to-day management of the station because I find it fascinating," Korge says. "The radio business is a good business, especially in Miami."

WKAT has a long and storied history. It was founded in 1937 by former Miami Beach Mayor Frank Katzentine and was located at 1759 Bay Rd. in Miami Beach. Throughout the Forties and Fifties the station broadcast big-band music and national variety shows. In 1967 it switched to a talk-show format and for a time was home to Larry King. In the Eighties it moved to its current site on Biscayne Boulevard at 135th Street. Former North Miami Mayor Howard Premer took over the station in 1986 and began broadcasting programs in Kreyol and Spanish.

Further shakeups among the current partners are likely in the months ahead. "Some of the partners would prefer to sell rather than infuse more money into the station," Korge says, adding that he plans to move operations to a building he's buying in the Coconut Grove-Coral Way area.

According to Korge the station also will move away from a format designed almost exclusively for Colombians to a more general Hispanic station that will have a mix of talk and music. Korge, who admits he doesn't speak Spanish, has a number of programming ideas. "One of the things I've thought about is a Spanish-speaking Dr. Ruth for a call-in show," he divulges. "We are exploring right now through market research how we can expand our listenership."

For Korge, a man known primarily as a county-hall lobbyist who parlayed his ties to Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas into a small fortune, the foray into radio is one of several business endeavors he's taken on in recent years. An attorney and a major fundraiser within the Democratic Party, 45-year-old Korge has always bristled at being known as a lobbyist. "It's not that I want to shed the label of lobbyist," he explains. "It's just that I'm tired of being referred to as just a lobbyist when for so many years I've been involved in so many other things."

His goals now, he says, are to continue to "accumulate as much wealth as I can," help others in the community who need assistance, and expand his knowledge of the business world. "It's a tremendous amount of fun," he comments.

His next venture? Korge says he has his eye on a cruise line he'd like to buy. And oh yes, maybe he'll run for political office.

 
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