Russo: It caught me totally by surprise
BY NEIL BEST firstname.lastname@example.org
June 24, 2008
Chris Russo Monday confirmed on WFAN that he and co-host Mike Francesa feuded for much of the spring, but he insisted their relationship since has improved.The remarks in his opening monologue were in response to a report in Sunday's Newsday that their 19-year partnership could end in the coming weeks, likely before Labor Day.Russo never specifically denied that he or Francesa would leave, but he reiterated that both hosts currently are under contract and said he was shocked to be asked about the possible end of the show."This idea that somehow our program that we've had fun having done it for 19, 20 years, is on the verge of being dismantled caught me totally by surprise," Russo said.
Later, he suggested Newsday was taking "a big leap" with its report and wondered where it had come from."Contracts, contracts, contracts," he said. "You abide by contracts. Mine's got a long, long way to go, not to mention that quote unquote non-compete clause following it. You're never going to get rid of me here."Francesa and Russo are believed to have other job opportunities, but to take advantage in the short term, either would have to buy out his deal. Russo's, with a non-compete clause, runs to October 2009.It is not clear when Francesa's deal expires, but he is not known to have signed beyond this year. An industry source Monday said satellite radio is the likeliest destination for Russo.Steve Cohen, Sirius' VP of sports programming and a former longtime WFAN staffer, did not return calls. Neither did Patrick Reilly, the company's senior VP for communications.If Francesa leaves, he could draw interest from TV in addition to radio, perhaps NBC, where he has a local show on Sunday nights.WFAN staffers have said for months that the relationship .between co-hosts is strained, but neither discussed that publicly until Monday.Russo said that from around Easter (March 23) through May 9, "Mike and I were .having a lot of issues. If you're a listener, I don't have to tell you . . . We were fighting like cats and dogs. The tolerance level of each other, Mike to me, me to Mike, was low."Russo said operations director Mark Chernoff finally asked him to talk to Francesa."After some initial balking by yours truly, I said, 'You know what, absolutely,"' Russo said. They met and "I apologized for acting like an idiot at times, and Mike did the same thing."Matters improved, Russo said, but he added, "Now, was it as good as it may have been in the heyday as far as relationships are concerned? No, .because we were killing each other for six weeks. It's going to take a little while to get back to the same page."Russo dismissed the notion that such bickering would lead to a breakup. But he left open the door to one host or the other departing."This is a great job; I need FAN," he said. "Again, that doesn't mean tomorrow or the next day or whenever that I'm going to put my signature or Mike on a 20-year contract .extension. You play it out and see what happens."
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