Published on Monday, 15 October 2012 08:51
Despite decent ratings from a challenging radio signal, the parent company of WKQX-LP/Q87.7 is not in the best of shape financially. As the company is barely clinging to life, it has released yet another staffer. Q87.7's weekday afternoon voice Shark has been let go, as of the end of last week.
Merlin Media Chicago Operations Manager Jim Richards informed Shark of his removal on Thursday, thanking him for his time there and bringing in some of the highest ratings at the station. The employee was given two days severance pay.
The release of Shark is directly tied into the ongoing financial troubles of Chicago-based Merlin Media LLC. At the start of last week, Merlin Media, owner of only four radio stations nationwide, agreed to sell its New York property, WRXP-FM to CBS Radio for $75 million, to help pay for for the incredible debt the company has developed in just over one year of existence. Next month, CBS will take over the programming of WRXP-FM to air sports talk. All other Merlin Media stations, which include two in Chicago and one in Philadelphia, are unofficially being shopped around to other radio companies. In the meantime, Merlin Media will place their soon-to-be sold NY Alternative Rock radio station on even more of an auto-pilot than it already is. Walter Flakus, who had been voice-tracking much of the day on WRXP-FM from the Chicago studios, now finds himself with extra time on his hands. Merlin Media released Shark to give his on-air duties to Flakus. Additionally, Flakus will continue his on-air job with WLUP-FM, as well as serving as WLUP-FM Music Director and WKQX-LP Music Director/Assistant Program Director.
Q87.7 voices still include Slater (aka WLUP-FM's Maxwell), PJ Kling, Lou Lombardo, Lauren O'Neil, and the aforementioned Walter Flakus. Almost all on-air talking at the station is pre-recorded and then inserted into the music mix via automation. DJs do not have exact shifts, but have their voices heard over approximate periods of time.
Shark was hired as a personality for Q87.7 at the very end of July
, making his time with the station and with Merlin Media well less than only three months. The most recent hire is the first one to go.
A veteran of numerous Chicagoland radio stations, Shark is just one of a few radio names that has been used by Eric Olson. He has also been known as Eric Austin (when he worked on Fresh 105.9) and Ric Stone (when he worked for 101.9 The Mix). His childhood nickname of "Shark" is the one he may be best known for, though.
Fans of Chicago radio will remember Shark as a night/weekend DJ on WKQX-FM/Q101 in 1995-1996. From 1998-2001, he was the afternoon personality on WKIE-FM 92.7/WKIF 92.5 when it was known as 92Kiss-FM, and even after it flipped formats and was then known as Energy 92.7 & 5. From there he worked weekends and fill-ins at WZZN-FM/The Zone in 2001-2003. Longtime fans of the Chicago Rush arena football team will remember Shark as the original PA announcer for the the first five years of the team.
Between the years of 2004 and 2008, Olson worked at WKLS-FM, WZGC-FM and WBZY-FM in Atlanta, GA before coming back home to Chicago. In May 2008, Shark began working at WTMX-FM as a weekend and fill-in personality, but since the "Shark" nickname didn't fit the station's image, and since there is already a famous person named Eric working mornings there, he used the radio name of Ric Stone. At the start of April 2011, he left The Mix to become the full-time afternoon personality
on WCFS-FM/Fresh 105.9. He was there until CBS Radio killed off the Fresh format to simulcast its AM news station
. He had also been doing some part-time weekend work on WJMK-FM/104.3 K-Hits earlier this year.
Over his long career in radio, he has spent time at KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, CA, KOME-FM in San Jose, CA and KEDJ-FM in Phoenix. This is not even mentioning the tiny markets like LaCrosse, WI and Mankato, MN, where the native from Madison, WI had to work at while starting out.
In June 2011, he was awarded a Silver Dome award
as "Best Radio Personality" from the Illinois Broadcasters Association for his weekend work at WTMX-FM the summer before. While he was at The Zone in Chicago, he was a 2002 Chicago A.I.R. Award Finalist for "Best Overall Talent on a Music Station." While he was working for KOME-FM, he was a finalist for Billboard Magazine's "1998 On-Air Personality of the Year - Alternative."
Updated at 10:30am with additional information.