Let's all shed one tear for Rush Limbaugh's upcoming contract negotiations, which will not be pretty at all.
Forget about the fact that his demographic is aging out, or that he's lost tons of sponsors because people just don't appreciate his specific brand of hate as much anymore enough to support it. The real issue for El Rushbo is that iHeart Radio, his Bain Capital-sponsored sugar daddy, doesn't have any sugar left for him.
For talk radio, there’s probably only one contract that enters that realm of notoriety: Rush Limbaugh’s eight-year, $400-million deal, signed in the summer of 2008 with his longtime radio employer Premiere Radio Networks.
Owned by Clear Channel Communications, which has since changed its name to iHeartRadio, Premiere’s Limbaugh deal instantly dwarfed any payout in AM/FM history. (Only Howard Stern’s contract with Sirius was larger.) The contract, which included a staggering $100 million signing bonus, never panned out as the wheels began to come off Limbaugh’s radio empire.
This year, his contract is up and the timing couldn’t be worse. The talker is facing ratings hurdles, aging demographics, and an advertising community that increasingly views him as toxic, thanks in part to his days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. (He’s also stumbling through the GOP primary season.)
Concurrently, iHeartRadio’s parent company, iHeartMedia, is heading to court, teetering on bankruptcy. The once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008, the same year the radio giant inked its disastrous Limbaugh deal.
It couldn't happen to a nicer (!) guy. And I was just kidding about shedding a tear. I think we should all drink to Rushbo's demise.