Mike Fowler was abruptly removed from his post as general manager of news/talk WLS-AM (890) on Friday. WLS-AM and oldies WLS-FM (94.7) are both owned and operated by Citadel Broadcasting, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Fowler also had served as market manager for Citadel's two Chicago radio properties.
Fowler was immediately replaced at WLS-AM by Michael Damsky, who most recently was director of sales for Citadel's two Chicago radio stations. The move, announced to Citadel's Chicago staff Friday morning by Citadel CEO Farid Suleman, took Fowler by surprise. "I didn't see it coming; the stations were in better shape than they've ever been," said Fowler, who had been with Citadel in Chicago for the past two years. Fowler said Suleman told him his axing was a "downsizing" of the company. Fowler had recently moved his family to Chicago from Atlanta.
Fowler's exit comes as WLS-AM was making moves to boost the station's all-important afternoon drive show hosted by Roe Conn and Cisco Cotto. The show had been slumping badly in the ratings in recent months, and Cotto's arrival earlier this week as co-host was intended to give the show a lift. According to a WLS-AM spokesman, Damsky gave the staff no indication on Friday of any immediate changes he might make at WLS-AM.
Prior to joining Citadel Broadcasting two years ago, Damsky spent 24 years at classic rock WXRT-FM (93.1), where he ultimately rose to become general manager. Damsky also participated in the launch of sports talk WSCR-AM (670). Both WXRT and WSCR are CBS Radio properties.