The following was written on June 25, 2019 in response to the book “Straight Out of Barrio Hollywood – The Adventures of Telemundo Co-founder Frank H Cruz” whose chapters 7 & 8 on the founding of KVEA and Telemundo are essentially complete fabrications.
The first part is a letter to Frank Cruz protesting his attempts to write himself into my own role as to the founding of KVEA and the complete fabrication of his involvement with the founding of Telemundo. The second part is a detailed (and accurate) narrative of the founding of KVEA and Telemundo, supported with numerous documents in my possession, documents and press articles archived on the web, and by the memories of several others who were there at the time.
830 W. 22nd. Ave
Eugene, OR 97405
June 25, 2019
RE: “Straight Out of Barrio Hollywood – The Adventures of Telemundo Co-founder Frank H Cruz”
Your book with the above title has come to my attention. I have no desire to take anything away from your life accomplishments, which are undoubtedly many. But your sub-title “Telemnundo Co-founder” is simply inaccurate and misleading, and the two chapters (7 & 8) that cover your time at KVEA and Telemundo are essentially a total fabrication with very little correlation to the facts as they happened (see attached factual history of the founding of KVEA and Telemundo)
Not only do you describe a role that you never had, but in many cases you injected yourself into my role, although the actual facts of how things transpired are profoundly mangled and inaccurate. We’re not talking about a few innocent slips of memory; the majority of these two chapters are simply fabrications.
RE: Chapter 7 “Stepping Back Behind the Camera”:
As you know quite well and as has been documented extensively, Joe Wallach and I were the only two founders (and part-owners) of KVEA, along with Reliance Capital Group, who funded this undertaking. I had been the General Manager of KSCI-TV, a part-time Spanish language station in Los Angeles for some years prior to this new venture with Joe.
Joe and I started working as partners on the project that led to KVEA in November of 1984, one full year before you were ever contacted by us and hired at KVEA, which was only some ten days before KVEA began its operations. Your letter from KNBC that you reprinted in your book dated 11/8/1985 supports that date, as well as a press release from KVEA dated 11/14/85 announcing your hire as VP of Community Affairs. Joe and I first contacted you only a few weeks earlier to discuss this job opening.
By the time you started work at KVEA, the huge undertaking to plan, finance, purchase the station, acquire programming, create a start-up advertising and promotional campaign, and completely re-equip the station and staff it with over 100 new employees had all been completed. You played no role whatsoever in the actual founding of KVEA, nor in any of the initial start-up activities in programming, promotion, operating, and advertising sales or any other area of KVEA up to that time.
After your hire date, you did participate in management-level discussions and decision making about KVEA’s news and public affairs programming, its community outreach, and related activities. But your fabricated narrative has you taking responsibilities for a huge range of functions that were completely outside your job description and prior experience, and were the responsibility of Joe, myself and others.
Your whole narrative about meeting Joe to plan the acquisition of KVEA in the summer of 1985 is utter fabrication, and is an attempt to write me out of my actual role as Joe’s equity partner and co-founder of KVEA. And essentially all of your subsequent narrative about the management and evolution of KVEA is also fabricated and untrue. I have a number of documents from that time to support my narrative, and there are numerous articles and documents on the web as well as at least one book, “Spanish-Language Television in the United States: Fifty Years of Development” By Kenton T. Wilkinson that describes the founding of KVEA and Telemundo quite accurately. I’m also in touch with a number of key personnel who were intimately familiar of how these events actually transpired.
RE: Chapter 8 “How Long Would It Take To Assemble Our Own Network”:
This is every bit as much of a work of fiction as is Chapter 7. Without repeating myself from the attached factual narrative, let me just say that neither Joe Wallach nor I can claim to be “co-founders of Telemundo”, because the simple reality is that we had essentially zero role in the decisions by Reliance to purchase the John Blair Company, which included WKAQ (Puerto Rico) and WSCV (Miami) in the summer of 1986, and the subsequent purchase of WNJU (New York). Joe and I read about those decisions in press releases. We were not consulted or involved, for better or for worse (the latter, as it turned out).
And the key reason for that was because Reliance was increasingly unhappy with the massive cost overruns that Joe unilaterally initiated at KVEA, as detailed in my attached document.
WKAQ had no value to a US Spanish-language network, something Reliance didn’t realize until later. Reliance grossly overpaid for those acquisitions, and this led directly to the eventual bankruptcy of Telemundo in 1993. The decision to create an actual network from the basis of these stations was also made solely by Henry Silverman and Reliance executives.
It is true that Reliance only became aware of and involved in the US Spanish language market due to Joe and I providing them with an in-depth analysis of that market in order to fund the acquisition of KVEA. So Joe and I can take credit for that, but that hardly constitutes being a “founder”. They took the ball and ran with it. Joe and I (and most certainly you) were not directly involved in the decisions to purchase these additional stations and to create a network.
It is true that once Reliance purchased these stations there were some meetings of the various station executives/managers to hash out issues, programming ideas/preferences and technicalities involved with the functioning of a network. But Carlos Barba, formerly GM of WNJU, was made VP of Programming of Telemundo after the acquisition of WNJU in late 1986, and unfortunately, KVEA had little or no influence on subsequent network programming decisions. As a matter of fact, Joe and I were decidedly unhappy about being left out of network programming decisions, since they largely ended up not reflecting the majority Mexican-origin audience in Los Angeles andother markets outside of New York and Miami.
Reliance funded a large network studio and operations facility in Miami, and that’s where Telemundo’s national news program was produced, along with some other programs, including the first US-produced novela, “Angelica, Mi Vida” which you shamelessly claim to have fathered.
Without going over all of your fabrications point-by-point, which would cover literally every element in these two chapters, let me conclude that Joe Wallach did not “leave KVEA and Telemundo in early 1988”. He was actually fired by Telemundo CEO Henry Silverman on March 17, 1987. This was directly a consequence of his many unilateral decisions to hire additional staff and expand operations (such as local news) grossly above and beyond the business plan and budget that had been previously approved and agreed upon with Reliance.
I had been steadily reducing my responsibilities at KVEA and transitioning to KSTS in San Jose precisely because I was uncomfortable with the rampant cost overruns that Joe was authorizing unilaterally. That ultimately cost him his job.
After Joe was fired, I discussed his replacement options with Henry Silverman and Don Raider. Your name came up, but there were serious concerns due to your limited background in many areas of broadcast management outside of news and community relations. One option was for me to stay and take the GM post, but I was already very invested in moving to the new station in San Jose. It was decided that you would be offered the position with the understanding that you would need support in various areas, especially in sales and operations, where you had little or no experience.
This led to the hiring of Steve Levin, who did have extensive background in sales and station operations. Steve was eventually made KVEA Station Manager, and on February 2, 1989 it was announced that you had resigned from KVEA. It was well known (and noted in the press) that you were forced to resign by your superiors in New York. Steve Levin was then promoted to General Manager.
As I said at the beginning of this letter, I have zero desire to take anything away from your genuine accomplishments before and after your three-plus years at KVEA. I never had any issues with you while I was at KVEA. You provided well-needed input in community affairs, local news and related activities, and you served the station and community well during that time. But I find these totally fabricated chapters of your book disturbing, offensive, and unethical, especially coming from a former news journalist.
I intend to distribute the attached true narrative and timeline of the founding of KVEA and Telemundo as your book does a disservice to the truth as well as to those individuals that are not properly recognized for the roles they played.
It is important to point out the massive hubris Reliance and Henry Silverman displayed by their foolhardy attempt to jump-start a second Spanish language network with junk bond debt without proper knowledge and experience of this specialized market. From a Business Week article in 1986: “Only one (Carlos Barba) of Telemundo’s 18 officers and directors has worked in Hispanic broadcasting; most have previously toiled in Steinberg’s insurance, hotel and other interests”.
Telemundo was destined to fail financially, due to its ill-advised founders and weak capital structure. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be known as a “Telemundo co-founder”. And I certainly wouldn’t lie about being one. I’d be more inclined to lie about not being one if I actually had been one.
I am proud to have been one of the two co-founders of KVEA, as not only was it destined to be a great financial success, but it also provided a service to the community and opened up career opportunities for many aspiring young, creative, and hard-working Latinos. Knowing that so many of them went on to have successful careers in Spanish language media and related activities is by far the most gratifying aspect of my association with KVEA.
The founding of KVEA-TV 52 Los Angeles and the Telemundo Network, including the gory but accurate details.
KVEA’s origin story begins with KSCI-TV, which was a multi-ethnic station that included a block of Spanish language programming starting in 1978. At that time I was directly involved in the production of numerous local Spanish language tv shows and local news produced at the KSCI studios.
In 1981, I became the General Manager of KSCI. In 1983, as a result of a partnership with a new Mexican-based company, KSCI expanded its Spanish language programming. A number of them were produced at KSCI, including a daily talk show (“Entre Amigos”), an entertainment industry show (“Desde Hollywood”), MTV-style music video shows (“Mundo Music” and “En Vivo”), a cooking show, and others. These were innovative and unusual, in being produced locally for the Los Angeles Latino market.
Prior to KVEA, KSCI was the only consistent Spanish language tv alternative to KMEX, the flagship station of Univision. Due to not having key prime time broadcast hours (8-11 pm) available as they were committed to Japanese and Korean programs, KSCI was not able to be fully competitive with KMEX in ratings and advertising sales.
In 1984, KSCI (along with WBBS-Chicago) participated in NetSpan, a national sales representation and limited programming exchange that was initiated by Carlos Barba, General Manager of WNJU-TV in New York, an independent Spanish language station. It involved the sharing of some programming, including KSCI’s productions and some musical specials from WNJU by the participating stations. This was not a true “network”, and its success and impact was limited.
Contrary to numerous Wikipedia entries and other articles, NetSpan was not the actual precursor or founder of Telemundo, and certainly not of KVEA. NetSpan became essentially non-functioning in late 1985 after KVEA began, which did not participate.
In November of 1984, I was approached by Joe Wallach, a recently retired former key executive with Rede Globo, Brazil’s dominant broadcast network. Joe had been with Globo since the mid 1960s, after Time-Life sold its part-ownership of Globo to Roberto Marinho. Globo was at the time the world’s fourth largest commercial tv network, and had an effective monopoly in Brazil.
Joe expressed interest in what we were doing at KSCI and in finding a way to compete more directly with KMEX with a full-time Spanish language station. He wanted to explore the idea of a purchase of KSCI, and invited me to partner with him in the undertaking of buying and starting a second full time station. I approached the owners of KSCI, but they demanded a price ($70 million) that was at least twice the value of KSCI based on its financial metrics. We decided not pursue this any further.
In January of 1985 it became known that Oak Industries needed to sell KBSC Channel 52 in Los Angeles, as they were in a deep financial crisis. The asking price was $32 million. We agreed to make an offer for $30 million, even though we had not made any efforts yet to secure financing. The entity that was incorporated for the purpose was Estrella Communications, Inc. Joe and I were the initial shareholders.
Due to Oak’s desperation, they accepted our offer in February 1985, with the condition that we needed to secure financing within a limited period of time.
Through one of Joe’s media contacts, he was put in touch with Reliance Capital Group, Inc., (“RCG”) a private equity investment arm controlled by financier Saul Steinberg. Henry Silverman was the CEO of RCG, and Don Raider was COO. Their only investment to that point was the hotel chain Days Inn. Neither Silverman, Raider, Steinberg, nor any other officers and executives with RCG or Reliance Group Holdings had any prior experience with media and television, and essentially zero awareness of Spanish language media.
Joe had extensive experience in the management of the very large and dominant Portuguese-language network, Globo and had contacts in the media with other broadcasters in Latin America. He had a charismatic personality that inspired enthusiasm and loyalty in his subordinates. But his working knowledge of the state of Spanish language media in the US was at that time rather limited, as he had just recently returned to the US after living in Brazil for two decades.
Since I had been managing a part-time Spanish language tv station in the country’s largest Hispanic market for several years, it fell mostly on me create the initial presentation materials to Reliance executives, to educate them on the basics of this market.
In March of 1985, based on these initial presentation materials and interviews, Reliance agreed in principle to back our offer to buy KBSC by funding our corporation, Estrella. Reliance became the main shareholder, and Joe and I retained a modest founder’s equity share despite not investing any of our personal funds into Estrella.
Reliance was very deeply involved with the junk-bond empire that later-disgraced and convicted Michael Milken had created at Drexel-Burnham-Lambert. It was Reliance’s plan to finance the acquisition of KVEA with a modest equity infusion, the balance from junk bonds issued by Drexel.
In order for that to happen, a very detailed five-year business plan with projected market share, revenues, operating profit/loss, staffing, equipment, etc. had to be created. I resigned from KSCI at this time (March 1985), and was put on the payroll of Reliance/Estrella for this purpose, and as such, became the first employee of the precursor entity of KVEA.
I hired Kip Hargrove, who had been Program Manager at KSCI and who was then finishing his MBA to assist me in writing this voluminous document, which included an extensive analysis of the Spanish language market in the US and Los Angeles. Joe largely wrote the chapter on programming, which was generalized at that stage, as we had not yet begun to secure programming.
The business plan that I created was patterned along the lines of so many English-language independent tv stations that were very successful at the time in the US: counter-programming against a network with syndicated programming from various sources and keeping a lean operation, as it would invariably be difficult in securing a substantial percentage of the Spanish language media dollars in LA within the first couple of years. KMEX/Univision’s programming was largely supplied by Televisa in Mexico, and thus had a huge intrinsic advantage against a new competitor, as little or no Mexican syndicated programming was available to KVEA.
No full-time news operation was planned due to the great expense. A topical affairs magazine-type program to be called “Vea Los Angeles” was included in the plan.
The reason no local news program was planned is because it would be impossible to monetize it. Local news is a key profit center for network stations, as it gives them considerable commercial inventory to sell to advertisers, as during the network programming hours, local stations retain only a very limited number of ad inventory.
As an independent station, we would have full control of our total inventory, hence there was no business case for local news initially. This was the near-universal strategy for English-language independent stations, at least until some of them became large enough in major markets to be able to monetize a local news operation.
The business plan included very detailed staffing, and the headcount was for 65. I used my experience at KSCI to staff KVEA appropriately based on its intended mission that was agreed upon by Joe, and its technical requirements. This headcount number would turn out to be a significant one later.
Joe was in full agreement with this business plan (we were technically joint authors) and our explicit understanding between us and with Reliance was that I would be the V.P./General Manager, and that Joe would be “Chairman”, and play a primarily consultative role. This was according to Joe’s stated wishes at the time.
Once the business plan was written, I spent numerous long sessions at Drexel’s Beverly Hills office with their designated executive (Bill Bron) to create the actual junk-bond financing documents that supported the validity of this investment by the purchasers of the bonds.
It took several months for the financing to be secured. In September of 1985, the bonds had been sold and the acquisition of KBSC by Estrella was approved by the FCC and subsequently the acquisition closed and the call letters changed to KVEA.
The next step was to extensively rebuild the facilities of KBSC in Glendale, which had been used as an over-the-air subscription service (ON TV) and were outdated technically and not suitable for a typical broadcast station operation. The goal was to go on the air with Spanish language programming by late November or so.
This required a massive undertaking and the rapid hiring of personnel in very short order. KSCI was the source of many of the key management and operating personnel, as they were eager to join me at this promising new venture. Most critically, KSCI’s Chief Engineer, Doug Lung, who is still currently a key engineering executive at NBC, agreed to join me at KVEA to head up the engineering department, design the new facilities and direct their installation. Several other engineers and technicians from KSCI also came aboard.
A number of other key KSCI managers also came to KVEA, including Human Resources (Patti Gallagher), Programming Director (Alfonso Araya) , Production Manager (Michael Newcomb), Business Manager (Kip Hargrove), and others. Somewhere between a third to one half of the 65 budgeted positions at KVEA were filled by KSCI personnel. It would have been essentially impossible to rebuild and re-structure KBSC into KVEA in such a short period of time (two and a half months) without this substantial personnel migration from KSCI.
In the late phase of the build-up to launching KVEA, Joe unilaterally began hiring individuals that had worked for him at TV Globo as well as family members, in the areas of promotion, production and programming. We now had no less than three Program Directors/managers! These unbudgeted and unplanned expansions required additional support personnel, facilities, equipment, etc.. Joe decided that all of the novellas we were buying from Latin America (primarily Venezuela) needed to be edited, a highly unusual undertaking. This required several new editing stations and numerous additional personnel.
Since I had written the business plan as it pertained to staffing, expenses, and projected profits/losses, and as General Manager was accountable to Reliance for its implementation, I was no longer willing to be seen as responsible for the massive cost overruns at the station that were happening almost daily. Around the time of the station’s startup date, the headcount had almost exactly doubled from the budgeted 65 to some 125. And there was a commensurate increase in equipment needed to support them technically.
Up to the point of KVEA’s air date, much of the promotional, PR and community outreach work was done by a consultant, Mario Machado. In early November of 1985, a few weeks before going live, Joe and I decided that we should ideally have a Hispanic Community Affairs Director on staff, a public face of the station to interface with the Latino community and organizations.
Mario Machado recommended Frank Cruz to us, as he knew that Frank was unhappy at KNBC, where he had been a news reporter for many years and had recently been passed over as anchor several times. Joe and I met with Frank, and shortly thereafter, offered him the position of VP/Community Relations, to oversee our community outreach both on air and directly in the community. From the KVEA press release at the time: “In making the announcement Wednesday, KVEA President Joe Wallach said that Cruz will be involved in setting station policy, overseeing community and public affairs activities and helping with the production of local programming”. This was dated November 14, 1985, Frank’s first day at KVEA, and ten days before the station went live.
When the station’s new programming went on the air (Nov. 24, 1985), it was with a M-F 5:30 magazine show “Vea Los Angeles” and a 15 minute local news capsule at 11:00pm. Within some weeks Joe called for a transition of Vea Los Angeles into a full half hour newscast. Frank supported that move and provided useful input. It would require another substantial increase in human and technical resources, investments that had not been part of the business plan. And then some months later, Joe decided unilaterally that we had to have weekend newscasts. This required another considerable expansion of staffing.
The question is not whether the decisions to implement these changes and expansions were good or not in theory, principle, or consequence. It’s debatable, and one that I’m not going to litigate here. Clearly some of the hires were overlapping, and there was a lot of organizational confusion and a lack of clear reporting structure. It was a chaotic time.
The real issue was that these off-budget expansions were made without proper consultation with the Reliance executives, which created an atmosphere of increasing tension. These changes deviated so substantially from the budget and business plan that it made that document (and its authors) not credible. And of course Reliance had to shoulder the drastic increase in capital investment, operating expenses and massive operating losses, which amounted to several millions of dollars.
As a consequence, in October 1985, during this build-up just before the launch, I told Joe that since he was making so many unilateral decisions and functioning as the de-facto manager, I was handing over my General Manager title to him, and that I would demote myself to VP/Station Manager. I was no longer willing to be held directly accountable for the consequences of all these decisions he was making.
My business plan projections assumed that KVEA would be able to attain a 20-25% share of the market in its early years. That’s exactly how it turned out, despite the massive expansion in promotion, news, etc. There is no concrete evidence that Joe’s strategy materially affected the outcome, except to incur massive expenses and losses, which did materially undermine Joe’s (and my) reputation with Reliance. This was the key factor in why Joe and I were not involved or consulted in subsequent investments in Spanish tv by Reliance.
One morning in June 1986, Joe and I read a press release that Reliance was making a bid to purchase John Blair and Company. This was a total shock and surprise to us, as there had been zero consultation from Reliance with either of us regarding any future plans for the expansion of Reliance’s Spanish tv acquisitions and/or a possible network. This was a unilateral move by Henry Silverman and his Reliance execs.
Blair was a large tv and radio sales representation firm (in English language media) and along with some other holdings, owned two Spanish language stations, WKAQ (known as Telemundo) in Puerto Rico and WSCV in Miami, a fairly new independent station. It was instantly clear to us what Reliance had in mind: strip all the assets of Blair except WKAQ and WSCV, in order to expand Reliance’s Spanish language tv holdings. And presumably this was likely the first step by Reliance to build a network.
What Reliance failed to realize was that WKAQ was essentially irrelevant to a future US Spanish language network. The bulk of WKAQ’s programming consisted of syndicated American tv shows dubbed into Spanish, which were of course not available to US Spanish tv stations. And the advertising market for Puerto Rico was not part of the US Spanish-language media market. In other words, there was almost zero potential synergy in buying WKAQ for a possible US Spanish tv network. And the Puerto Rican market was mature and had little or no growth prospects. This was one of the many key mistakes Reliance made early on that put Telemundo on an inevitable course towards its eventual bankruptcy.
A few months later, in October of 1986, Reliance announced it was buying WNJU in New York for $75 million. WNJU had been an independent Spanish language station for some years, and was owned by future Univision CEO/part-owner Jerry Perrenchio. Carlos Barba was its General Manager. I was familiar with WNJU’s operations and had a pretty good idea of its financial performance; Reliance’s purchase price of $75 million was about twice what it was worth based on typical sales price metrics (multiple of cash flow). Reliance overpaid in its rush to build a portfolio of stations.
With these initial acquisitions, Henry Silverman and the Reliance executives clearly were signaling their intentions to create a network. It should be stated once again: Reliance made these acquisitions without consultations with Joe Wallach or me. If I had been consulted, I would have pointed out that outside of Los Angeles, it was then difficult to generate substantial profits from Spanish language tv stations. It was known that Univision generated a vastly disproportionate share of its profits from its Los Angeles flagship station, KMEX. The Los Angeles Hispanic market was much larger and more concentrated than any other, and as such, the scale was there to generate meaningful profits. That mostly wasn’t the case in the other markets.
If Reliance was eager to start a network, they would have been better served by focusing on the programming side, offering a strong slate of programming to potential network affiliates rather than buying stations outright at a time in the mid 80’s when tv station prices were exceptionally high. At this time, a number of new independent Spanish-language tv stations were going on the air in various key markets. All of them would have eagerly embraced an affiliation agreement with a new network.
This rush to buy stations with 14% interest junk bonds is what eventually bankrupted Telemundo. That interest rate was well in excess of the growth and profit potential given the high acquisition costs.
Although Joe and I clearly were the only “co-founders” of KVEA, we also clearly were not “co-founders” of Telemundo. Reliance rushed into their high priced acquisitions and decision to create a Miami-based network alone, and eventually paid the price.
Reliance merged their newly-acquired stations (KVEA, WNJU, WSCV, and WKAQ) into a new entity named “Telemundo”, using the name that it had acquired along with WKAQ. It was used simply because it was a good name, not because WKAQ in Puerto Rico was going to play any meaningful part in the network.
The next step was to create a network slate of programming, national news and a network operations facilities. Carlos Barba was made Director of Programming for Telemundo, and dominated the related decision-making process in New York. The network operations were to be based in Miami, under the direction of Robert Behar, who oversaw the construction of the satellite uplink facility and the creation of the first Telemundo national newscast. There was essentially no meaningful involvement in any of this by Joe, myself or any other executives at KVEA, except for Chief Engineer Doug Lung, who provided significant input on the engineering side of network operations.
The Telemundo Network began broadcasting a slate of programming via satellite in early 1987. Telemundo was taken public in August 1987, via an offering of two million common shares priced at $10.50 per share and two series of zero coupon notes. By 1989, Telemundo shares were down to $6.50, and would continue to drop until the eventual bankruptcy in 1993. Joe and I were forced to convert our valuable shares in KVEA/Estrella into Telemundo shares, and watched their value head towards zero.
I was increasingly unhappy about the growing tensions between Reliance and KVEA regarding the massive cost overruns. As noted previously, I had demoted myself to deflect responsibility for these hires and decisions. In about January of 1987, at a time when Reliance was still making other tv station acquisitions, it came to my attention that there was an interest in buying one in the San Francisco/San Jose market. I knew the owner of KSTS-San Jose, and received the go-ahead to initiate contact and participate in negotiations to buy that station for Telemundo. It became my exit strategy from KVEA’s maelstrom.
Once a sale had been agreed to, I wrote the five year business plan and budget for the conversion of KSTS to Spanish language. This meant that my responsibilities as Station Manager of KVEA effectively ended in March 1987, although I was still based at KVEA until a few months before the sale was completed in August 1987. I moved to the San Jose area in July of 1987.
In the middle of March 1987, I had a phone conversation with Telemundo CEO Henry Silverman about the massive cost overruns at KVEA. I explained to him why I had demoted myself earlier and why I was now leaving KVEA altogether, due to discomfort with the many decisions that had created such massive overruns from the original business plan and budget.
A few days later, on March 17, 1987, Henry Silverman asked Joe Wallach to resign. Joe blamed me for this, but as I pointed out, I had warned him of the consequences of massively deviating from the agreed plan and budget long ago. It was precisely why I had demoted myself and was in the process of transferring to KSTS. It was not a happy ending to our partnership, which had been defined very differently in the beginning.
The question now came as to who should replace Joe Wallach as GM of KVEA. I could have made a pitch to do so, but I was already deeply involved in the KSTS transition, and frankly, was eager to leave the poisoned political climate of KVEA.
Frank Cruz’ name was brought up in a conversation with Henry Silverman and Don Raider, and although I expressed reservations about his lack of experience in many key aspects, indicated that if that was the preferred choice by them, it might work if he could receive sufficient support in the areas where he had no prior experience.
By the time Frank was promoted to GM of KVEA in March of 1987, the Telemundo network was fully formed and had been operational for some time.
Steve Levin, who had extensive sales and operations experience, was brought in not much later, initially as Sales Manager, later promoted to Station Manager, to support Frank. But it was not a viable situation, and on February 4, 1989, it was announced that Frank Cruz had resigned. It was public knowledge that Frank was given that option in lieu of being fired.
From the LA Times in an article from 2/4/89:
Privately, some staffers said they believed the change was prompted by the network’s desire to streamline KVEA’s management by putting it the hands of an aggressive, hands-on broadcaster such as Levin, formerly operations manager for NBC-affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco. Levin, said one, had injected new financial life into KVEA by greatly boosting its advertising sales.
Others speculated that Cruz had become increasingly disconnected from the station’s day-to-day operations after failing to convince network officials that he should be promoted into Telemundo’s corporate hierarchy.
Both are essentially correct.
I managed KSTS in San Jose/San Francisco for five years, and the station exceeded its financial projections in each of those years. I developed a regional network of several low power stations to cover both the Salinas and Sacramento-Modesto markets.
In 1990, Henry Silverman left Telemundo, undoubtedly because of its growing financial distress. Saul Steinberg, who also had zero media experience, took over as CEO. In early 1992, he hired former Univision President Joaquin Blaya as President of Telemundo. This prompted a wave of firings of Telemundo executives, to be replaced by Blaya’s former subordinates at Univision. I was terminated in the spring of 1992.
I decided to leave the broadcast field altogether, and moved to bucolic Eugene, Oregon, and became a real estate investor, automotive historian and avid hiker.
PS: I am in possession of numerous documents to support this narrative, and there are many old press articles and other documents on the web, as well as the book “Spanish Language Television in the United States: Fifty Years of Development” By Kenton T. Wilkinson.