V-103’s Frank Ski toasts strong return

Ski: “I probably shouldn’t have left.”

Originally posted Tuesday, July 3, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Frank Ski left his comfy environs at V-103 in 2012 after 14 years of huge success in hopes of bigger national syndicated glory.

The glory never came. He ended up taking a lower-paying hosting job in D.C. for awhile but then returned to Atlanta, his marriage and finances in tatters.

Fortunately for Ski, V-103 management didn’t look askance at their departed son. Instead, they welcomed him back. For more than a year, he worked on weekends and fill in, biding his time. He married a new wife and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Then morning host Ryan Cameron earlier this year decided it was time to try a new career as a partner at a local branding company.

V-103 could have selected someone younger but opted instead for a man with a track record nobody else in the Atlanta radio market could match: Ski.

And in a mere four months, Ski has seen V-103's ratings sky rocket under his leadership. Among 25 to 54 year olds in January, Cameron's final month on air, he drew a 5.6 Nielsen Audio rating, good for fifth place in the Atlanta market. In May, Ski's show with Wanda Smith brought in an 8 rating and back to a spot he's familiar with: first place.

Though Ski is now in his early 50s, he was able to bring back younger listeners as well: in the 18-34 demo, ratings jumped from 5.5 to 8.1, good for third place behind Hot 107.9's Rickey Smiley and Q100's Bert Show.

Ski's wife Dr. Patrice Basanta-Henry wanted to celebrate his return to his place on the throne of FM radio dominance and organized a gathering at the Palm in Buckhead Monday night.

“Since we’ve been back, things have really changed for the better,” Ski said. “Many people thought the landscape had changed so much... There are so many people who have moved into the city. It was like starting over. But when we got on air, it wasn’t like starting over.  It was like a natural thing that brought us together.”


Three of his sons and many of his associates were at the party, including his news woman Maria Boynton, his morning show partners Wanda Smith and Miss Sophia, traffic coordinator Stephanie Stallworth, businessman Thomas Dortch and funeral home operator Willie Watkins.

Ski said when he reunited with Smith, he felt like he had never left.

“The conversations she and I have more are way more intimate because now life has changed,” said Ski to the group. “Our experience translated into our conversations on the air.”

He said he was aware that the new company that had taken over for V-103 (Entercom) didn’t know him and were undestandably skeptical.

His long-time boss Rick Caffey (who survived the merger transition) lobbied for him. "He had to make the marriage happen again," Ski said. They were warned if the ratings didn't markedly improve in six months, they might reconsider the move. But ratings hit their highest point in a couple of years in a mere three months.

When Ski was back in the saddle again in February, he posted the then less-than-stellar ratings on an office wall. Smith wasn’t pleased, he said: “Why would you put that negative [expletive] on the wall?” “I’m like, ‘Because I never want you to forget. Don’t ever forget. This is what happens if we are not on our game. We will never not be on our game!’”

He said the show is not just about him, that he has built up humility after his setbacks. He believes a championship team lifts each other.

As for his departure in 2012, he admitted, “I probably shouldn’t have left. As a prodigal son story goes, I had to go out and see the world... I found out the world wasn’t what it was.”

Smith was nothing if not grateful. She herself lost her job in 2013 after Ski left and returned in 2015 working with Cameron. “I’m still having fun,” Smith said. “It is hard getting everything together but thank you very much for being part of this journey.”

Caffey, who has run V-103 for more than two decades as the station has faced an increasing buzzsaw of competition, was nothing if not effusive.

“How smart am I to reunite these people?” Caffey said, half joking. “It’s a natural continuation of that journey... Frank had to go away to come back. You can’t squash anyone’s dream. You have to go out there... Life is very short. You don’t want to live with a coulda shoulda. I’m happy Frank is back... I have two pros that really get it.”