By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Jeff Dauler resigned this morning from Q100's the Bert Show after 14 years to join rival station Star 94.
"It's an exciting day, to say the least," Dauler wrote in a text. "I'm overwhelmed on a lot of levels."
This morning, a senior account executive at Star 94 employee sent this note out to her clients via email:
Yep- you read that right! We just got out of a meeting with this news. Star 94 has just hired Jeff Dauler! He resigned from the Bert Show this morning and has accepted a contract at Star. He'll be on the air in Feb. Our GM hasn’t finalized in which capacity he'll be used yet, AM or PM drive but we've been told no talent will lose their job so he will likely become part of a team. Very Exciting!
When rumors were floating around Monday about Dauler and former Bert Show host Jenn Hobby joining Star, Dauler deflected my inquiry in a text, writing: "Let me know when the announcement happens. I would like to be there." Mike Fowler, the GM of Star who used to run Q100 in the mid-2000s, also coyly emailed me yesterday: "Do you know something I don’t?"
Weiss, when I texted him about the rumor Monday, didn't think it was true. He declined to comment this morning. (On Wednesday morning, Weiss addressed Dauler's departure by saying he couldn't express his true feelings because he felt he would regret it later. Details here.)
Technically, when I was fishing around Monday afternoon, Dauler had not yet signed a contract.
"We finalized Jeff's deal last night," Fowler said Tuesday. "I'm glad to have him. He's a talented guy. He's going to be great addition to the staff. He's extremely creative. He's got a good marketing sense about him. He knows what needs to be done. He has a good feel for Atlanta." He said he hasn't figured out how to fit Dauler in but he is sure it will work out.
Fowler said the current morning team Drex, Cassiday and Tingle, hired earlier this year, is not going anywhere.
Dauler presumably has a non-compete clause which will keep him off the air for three months, which is less onerous than the typical six-month clause.
Earlier today, Dauler posted a lengthy Facebook message about why he chose to leave. He first called his time with the Bert Show "the greatest job on the planet." He noted he is departing voluntarily and was not fired. "Nothing happened," he wrote. "It’s just time, and it’s totally my decision."
He acknowledged that it's difficult to see himself working with Star in a sense because for 14 years, "Star has been the enemy." But he said he's ready for a new challenge. "They have big ideas and big plans and I am honored they asked me to be part of them."
Besides Bert Weiss himself, Dauler was the last original member of the Bert Show, which debuted on the new top 40 station Q100 in 2001. The show eventually overtook Star 94's Steve & Vikki to become the dominant top 40 morning show in town.
Dauler was always the "funny guy" on the show, cracking jokes and providing Weiss with a great foil. The chemistry was there. Behind the scenes, he was an imaginative force for many of the show's bits and subjects.
In his goodbye note, Dauler gave Weiss his props, saying "he has the best content filter in the industry. His ability to get guests... to open up on the air amazes me constantly. His relentless pursuit of excellence has taken a show that started on a 300-watt Atlanta signal and made it into a national brand... It's an honor to work with him."
Dauler's departure is arguably an even bigger blow to Weiss than previous personnel shifts, including Hobby (on maternity leave from mid-days at Kicks 101.5) and Melissa Carter (now doing mornings at B98.5).
Those two departures did not hurt Weiss' ratings in Atlanta, where he is a regular top 3 presence in all key demographics and has pulled in dominant ratings for many years. After Hobby left, Kristin Klingshirn joined the show in 2011 and blended in well with Dauler and Weiss.
In 2010, the Bert Show began syndication to other markets and is now heard in 17 markets, including Nashville, Dallas and Charleston, S.C.
Later in 2010, Dauler almost went to Star but chose to stick with Weiss after contentious back-and-forth negotiations. At the time, he even wrote an amusing story about what was going on using the "Jersey Shore" as an analogy where Dauler played the Situation. (Yes, "The Jersey Shore" was a thing in 2010!). Read what I wrote about it at the time. And Jeff's entire "Jersey Shore" parable is here.
Mara Davis, a former Dave FM mid-day host who now hosts "Atlanta Eats" on 640/WGST-AM and provides music picks weekly for 90.1/WABE-FM, calls this a "brilliant move" by Star.
"After Steve & Vikki left (in 2007), they've needed a marquee name," Davis said. "Jeff Dauler is that. People will go out of their way to listen to him. And there's nobody who understands better how to program a morning show than him given his experience. That's appointment radio for me."
Dauler "is in the moment," Davis added. "He's current. And he's unpredictable, which is why he has remained such a great talent at Q100 for so long."
Star 94, a leading pop station town for much of the 1990s into the early 2000s, has been trailing Q100 for much of the past decade. It has gone through multiple morning shows since it let go of Steve & Vikki in late 2007. The station is under new ownership with Entercom, which is committed to re-energizing the brand.
Carter, who worked with Dauler for 10 years before leaving in 2011, texted me: "It's such an exciting time in Jeff's life! I'm happy for him."
Indeed, Dauler expressed his gratitude to the Bert Show and the mixed feelings he had about making the move from being the No. 2 guy to likely being the lead. "I am sad today, but I am excited about tomorrow and all of the days after that. This curtain is closing, but soon I will turn around and another will open and in front of me, my whole life. I cannot wait."