Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Leonard H. Goldenson’s Real Open Door

By Walter Sabo
CEO, Sabo Media Action Partners
A.K.A. Walter M Sterling
Host, WPHT, Philadelphia – daily
Talk Media Network – Sundays

imLeonard H. Goldenson was the founder/chairman of ABC, Inc. Before Disney, before Capital Cities, ABC was… ABC and it was run by Mr. Goldenson. He launched the ABC Radio Networks, ABC Television Network, and the original ABC radio and television stations.

His background was as a movie theatre owner. He respected the crowd, applause, creativity, art, the show. Many top talent and executives owe their start or standards to Mr. Goldenson. I worked at ABC Radio for five years when Leonard was chairman, here’s what I absorbed.

— Risk for the show. Allen Shaw and his team largely invented the album rock format and launched it on the ABC FM stations. There was no proof it would work. But it made sense. That required seven stations to dump automation and hire seven AFTRA jocks and seven IATSE engineers at each station. Note the IATSE pay scale was higher than the AFTRA scale. It didn’t go as planned. In San Francisco, the presumed success was slow to profit. WRIF, Detroit, under the leadership of Willard Lochridge, slam dunk. Leonard didn’t blink. Imagine.

— ABC was caught up in the payola scandals in the early 1960s. Alan Freed was a jock on WABC. After the Congressional hearings, Goldenson said never again and vowed to sell the radio stations. WXYZ GM, Hal Neal went to the chairman and said, “Let me run them and I will clean them up.”  He did. Without mercy. Leonard kept them and the ABC AM/FM stations became legend. Imagine.

— Leonard had the heart of an artist. He painted. Every year, at the holidays, a beautiful book of his art was distributed to all employees with an essay written by Leonard sharing his thoughts and feelings about each work. We had a glimpse of his soul. Imagine.

The door was always open for talent. On-air talent could visit Mr. Goldenson without an appointment at any time. WPLJ morning star, Jim Kerr would regularly ride to the 40th floor and sit in Leonard’s office to chat. Imagine.

— At an executive conference, he got up early and started to leave. Being a smartass, I looked at him and asked why was he sneaking out? He explained that ABC was opening a movie that afternoon and he wanted to stand outside a theater and ask audience members how they liked his movie. That was his research. Imagine.

— When WABC-AM switched from music to talk, the plan called for profit in year 10. It took 11. Imagine

— Leonard Goldenson flew commercial, coach. Imagine.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers.. His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is heard on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.

He can be reached by email at