Jason Wolfe, who as WEEI’s program director oversaw the sports station’s rise to enormous success, has been fired by parent company Entercom after a prolonged stretch of subpar ratings.
Wolfe, who had been at the station for nearly 22 years and most recently held the title of vice president of programming and operations for Entercom Boston, tweeted the news of his departure Thursday morning.
He also attached a letter that focused on highlights of his career -- including four Marconi Awards for the station during his tenure -- and how much he enjoyed his time at WEEI.
“I’m so blessed to have played a role in the station’s success, and that success can never be taken away, nor should it ever be forgotten,’’ Wolfe wrote.
“But this is a business, and in business companies are always looking ahead in order to decide what’s best for their future. In this case, Entercom has decided to replace me because they feel it’s time for a change with my position. They have an obligation to do what they feel is in the best interests of the station and the company, and I respect that, and accept it. I’m thankful for all that Entercom has done to support me, and I wish the company all the best in the future.’’
Jeff Brown, the vice president and market manager for Entercom Boston, said Thursday that Wolfe’s replacement would be announced in the next couple of days. He also said that other changes at the station are not imminent.
During Wolfe’s tenure, WEEI had enormous success in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, fending off upstart challengers such as WWZN 1510 and ESPN 890. But the launch of 98.5 The Sports Hub in August 2009 -- a station with CBS Radio’s support, broadcast rights deals with the Patriots and Bruins, and a strong FM signal -- provided the first real challenge to WEEI’s sports radio supremacy.
It was not long before the Sports Hub was neck-and-neck with WEEI in the Arbitron ratings. WEEI, which never lacked for hubris during its time alone at the top, was slow to react to the challenge, finally moving from AM to FM (at 93.7) in September 2011.
That was three months after Brown was moved by Entercom from Portland, Ore., to Boston. As WEEI’s ratings failed to meet previous high standards, he implemented changes, most notably replacing longtime host Glenn Ordway in afternoon drive with Mike Salk (who is paired with holdover Michael Holley) in February.
The ratings now tilt heavily in 98.5 The Sports Hub’s favor. The station has finished first in the last three (fall, winter, spring) three-month ratings periods, and the gap is most significant in morning and afternoon drive.