Loop, ‘KQX programmer goes out on top

Jim Richards

Jim Richards

Leaving Chicago will be “really bittersweet” for veteran radio programmer Jim Richards, who guided two of Chicago’s legendary rock stations to the top of the ratings among their respective audiences.

After two years as operations manager of classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 and alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1, Richards, 47, is headed to San Francisco to become operations manager/program director of Cumulus Media’s KFOG FM and KSAN FM.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, the Loop ranks No. 1 in its target demographic of men between 25 and 54, while WKQX ranks No. 1 among men between 18 and 34 and men between 18 and 49.

While a search is under way for Richards’ replacement in Chicago, PJ Kling continues as program director of WKQX, and Zakk Tyler (born Dominic Joseph Zaccagnini) serves as acting program director of the Loop.

“This is really bittersweet,” Richards told me Wednesday. “It’s great to get back closer to my fiancé [Dr. Vanessa Kaleb] and to work with [KSAN morning hosts] Lamont & Tonelli again. But we have such a great team here, and I’ve built relationships that will last for life. My Chicago experience has been the highlight of my life and career — so far.”

A protege of Merlin Media CEO Randy Michaels, Richards was named to his current post in May 2012, when the Loop and WKQX were under Merlin Media control. Since January, they’ve been operating under a local marketing agreement by Cumulus Media, which retained Richards at the Chicago combo.

In addition to holding top programming posts on the West Coast and in the Midwest for Jacor Broadcasting and Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Richards was vice president of content for Tribune Interactive during Michaels’ tenure as CEO of Tribune Co.

“We are delighted to have a programmer of Jim’s caliber and pedigree lead our efforts in the Bay Area,” Troy Hanson, corporate program director/rock for Cumulus Media, said in a statement. “His product passion, digital thought process and strong talent management acumen are second to none. We look forward to Jim duplicating his precise success in Chicago into a big win for us in San Francisco.”