- Published on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:14
Former Chicago television executive Joe Ahern has found a new job. Ahern has been named as the new Executive Director of the 100 Club of Chicago, the 44-year-old not-for-profit organization which gives support to the families of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Joe Ahem brings to the charity over 35 years of business leadership to the 100 Club of Chicago. Ahern first became well known to the Chicago market as the President and General Manager of WLS-TV, where he ran what became the #1 rated newscast from 1985 to 1997, and also helped launch "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Prior to becoming station boss, Ahern was a Sales Manager at WLS-TV (and other stations in other markets). From 1998-2002, he was President and General Manager of KGO-TV in San Francisco, CA, before returning back to Chicago in August 2002 to become President and General Manager of WBBM-TV.
While at WBBM-TV, and especially by the time he exited in October 2008, Ahern had gone from "famous" television executive to "infamous" television executive. Ahern's tenure at WBBM-TV was filled with dismal ratings, and multiple controversies. Ahern went on a shopping spree, paying record high amounts to steal away talent from other stations, the biggest amount going to Diann Burns, who turned out to be a huge turn off to viewers, and a controversial figure herself. In addition to overspending on anchors, he spent an obnoxious amount of money to remodel the station's broadcast facility, which included having a private bathroom with a marble shower installed for himself. To pay for all these expenditures, mass layoffs hit the station, driving down morale. He threw a lavish $5,000 birthday lunch party for himself, then forced WBBM staffers to pay for it. When Ahern and then News Director Carol Fowler heavy-handedly edited, promoted, and aired a video of then WMAQ-TV reporter Amy Jacobson at the home of a suspected (but not accused) wife killer, making it seem that something salacious was going on when it wasn't, Ahern and the CBS station found themselves sued twice. (Those lawsuits have yet to be resolved.) Despite all the money spent and all the controversies Ahern oversaw, WBBM-TV's ratings never improved or came close to achieving what he did at WLS-TV. He was fired from CBS on October 14, 2008.
Ahern has not returned to television work since.
Since then, Ahern made headlines as a high-profile senior advisor to the City of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid committee. Chicago 2016 had hoped Ahern's past media experience would help the City's chances of hosting the 2016 Olympics. In a statement released to the press, the Chicago 2016 committee said that Ahern "will provide strategic counsel in a number of areas, including marketing, international relations, communications, development and sponsorships." When looking over the possible host cities for 2016, the International Olympic Committee chose to eliminate Chicago first.
At the start of this year, Joe Ahern was named as President of Alex Dana's chain of Rosebud Restaurants, despite having no previous restaurant experience. By mid-June of this year, Alex Dana fired Joe Ahern. No public reason was given.
At 65 years old, Ahern is now trying his hand at running a not-for-profit organization with the 100 Club of Chicago. While he didn't have restaurant experience, Olympic marketing experience, or a good experience at WBBM-TV, Ahern does have a great deal of experience in charities. For many years, Joe Ahern has dedicated time for causes, having sat on Board of Directors and worked with numerous organizations, including the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the American Cancer Society, Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago Central Area Committee, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, World Business Chicago, Loyola University Council of Regents, the Executive Club and the Economic Club of Chicago, among others.
James V. Riley, President of the 100 Club said in a statement: "I am so delighted that we have an Executive Director of Joe's standing in the community to take the reins and reach out to corporate, business, civic leaders and foundations to further our mission of helping families of fallen public servants." He added: "I am confident that Chicago's corps of executive volunteers will respond to Joe's ability to mobilize people around our compelling mission. We plan to recruit more corporate leaders and appeal to foundations to augment our base of support."
Joe Ahern said about his plans as Executive Director: "Our number one priority is to increase awareness of the 100 Club. Over the years, our loyal supporters consistently demonstrate the importance of helping the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We deeply regret the loss of several law enforcement officers and firefighters this year and it is imperative that we engage individuals, businesses and foundations to assist us with our mission." The 100 Club of Chicago
was founded in 1966. Its primary mission is to aid spouses and dependents of fallen law, fire and emergency personnel. The 100 Club reaches out to all federal, state, county and local public safety personnel stationed in Cook County. In addition, the 100 Club of Chicago provides assistance with college tuition to these families of fallen public servants.
Once a year, the 100 Club of Chicago bestows the Valor Award on heroic police officers, firefighters and paramedics, who, without regard for their personal safety, performed above and beyond the call of duty, and defined the spirit and determination of the area's over 35,000 dedicated sworn personnel. Started in 1980, the awards are chosen by awards committees of the Chicago Police and Fire Departments, the Illinois Police Association and the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, not by the staff of the 100 Club of Chicago. The Valor Award is the only civilian award that is permitted to be worn on the awardee's uniform in every municipality within Cook County.
New Executive Director Joe Ahern will be on hand when the "100 Club of Chicago's Valor Awards Ceremony" takes place next week, November 17th at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza (350 W. Mart Center Dr., Chicago).