Mike Francesa so badly wanted to return to WFAN, he went to the president of the station’s parent company, Entercom, David Field, and accepted a “significant pay cut” compared to his previous salary, according to sources.
Francesa, who is expected to begin hosting in the afternoons again on FAN early next month, had been making around $3 million before deciding to “retire” Dec. 15. The exact amount of the pay cut is not known.
The decision to bring Francesa back occurred above WFAN vice president Mark Chernoff’s head, according to sources. Chernoff was not a proponent of bringing Francesa back. The deal came together quickly in the last week, according to sources.
Francesa desperately wanted to return to FAN because he had few options that matched the size of his ego and the amount of money he requested after being free to sign with anyone beginning April 1.
His old partner, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, brokered talks with SiriusXM in which Francesa would have teamed with Russo once a week and then host solo programs on other days, Russo said on his show Tuesday. Francesa had no interest in following Russo, and the money was not what he desired.
Russo, for one, did not think Francesa looked good by retreating to FAN at “60 cents on the dollar.”
“If you change your mind [about retiring], you look like a horse’s fanny,” Russo said on his program Tuesday.
Francesa’s new show is expected to run from 3-6:30 p.m. each weekday. His replacements, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, will move to the 1-3 p.m. slot, while Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno will lose an hour and now run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as they had previously.
FAN acknowledged talks with Francesa, but offered no official details.
Francesa, 64, did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.
While CMB lost in the winter book to the 98.7 ESPN New York’s “Michael Kay Show” by two-tenths of a point, Francesa may have returned even if CMB had squeaked out a victory.
After The Post reported Monday that Francesa, who said he could not talk about specific stations, was trying to return to FAN, Francesa confirmed he was going back to the station in a statement to Newsday on Tuesday.
Francesa had a conspiracy theory that there was a group, apparently at FAN, who was trying to prevent his return.
“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days,” Francesa said. “I didn’t decide to go back to WFAN until I was told I better not go back. For those behind it, that was the moment I decided to return.”
Later, Russo said on his radio show that Carlin sent an explicit text to him and Francesa after the duo made fun of the state of FAN, during an appearance on Russo’s MLB Network “High Heat” show. Russo and Francesa kidded about people at the radio station losing their jobs.
Russo said the text from Carlin said, “Blank my you know what.”
Russo said he let it slide, but Francesa did not.
An independent source confirmed the text. Carlin did not return a message seeking confirmation.
Carlin opened the CMB show Tuesday addressing the Francesa situation, taking the high road.
“All I could tell you is this: We are not going anywhere, we are going to be a big part of this radio station for a long time and this is a business,” Carlin said. “You are talking about someone in Mike who was wildly successful for 30 years, so it only makes business sense to welcome someone like that back into the fold. Is it awkward? Of course it is.”
Scott joked he wanted to keep the job, because he just wants to be able to get out of the house each day.
According to the former WFAN host and now Don Imus replacement, WABC’s Sid Rosenberg, not being home is one of the reasons that Francesa is coming back.
“He crawled back to WFAN because he came to the realization, I don’t want to be home with Roe and my three kids,” Rosenberg said in a phone interview, referencing Francesa’s wife. “He is only in his early 60s. He is not Imus’ age. He is not 77 so he wants to work, he wants to make some money. He has a very lavish lifestyle. He doesn’t want to be home with his wife and kids.”
He is not expected to be welcomed with open arms by his FAN colleagues after the comments on “High Heat.” Boomer Esiason, half of the FAN’s morning team, called Francesa “classless.”
After a more-than-year-and-a-half retirement tour, Francesa could have stayed at FAN on a few occasions, but decided against it. When former morning host Craig Carton was arrested in an alleged Ponzi scheme, Francesa offered to stay, but wanted a raise. Executives balked, and sources indicate that FAN felt it could be financially successful with CMB because the trio is believed to make a third or less combined of the around $3 million that Francesa was pulling in. Carlin, Gray and Scott are all signed to two-year deals.
Even with Francesa and CMB’s new salary, FAN is still paying less than it was before, so Entercom decided bringing Francesa back at a discount was too good to pass up.
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