Kirk Minihane, whose near-six-year run as a cohost of WEEI’s morning program has been marked by controversy, contentiousness, and consistent ratings success, is leaving the program.
But despite Minihane’s occasional airing of grievances with station and corporate management on social media, he is not leaving WEEI’s parent company, Entercom Communications.
Minihane is going to host his own show on the Entercom-owned Radio.com app. WEEI’s morning show will now be called “Mut and Callahan,” after longtime host Gerry Callahan and Mike Mutnansky, who has frequently been the third voice on the show.
In a statement to its affiliates, WEEI said, “This national platform will provide Kirk the opportunity to host a show the way he envisions without having to worry about certain station and FCC guidelines. Kirk remains an employee of Entercom and part of the Entercom/WEEI family.”
Entercom said in a different statement that WEEI’s morning show “is being reenvisioned as a more sports-centric show consistent with the station’s brand.”
Minihane later elaborated on some of the details during an impromptu Q&A on Twitter. He said the new show begins early next year and that he knew about two weeks ago he wouldn’t return to WEEI’s morning show. He said the new program will not have a co-host, and that Callahan wanted the morning program to remain intact.
“He did. He just did it differently than I would have is all,’’ replied Minihane when asked if Callahan fought for the show. “But he’s not happy about it. I love him, will miss working with him. But it’s over. Last show tomorrow.”
Minihane’s daily program will not air at the same time as “Mut and Callahan” for now. But it will be available on demand for listening at any time in podcast form.
Minihane has been on a leave of absence from the morning program since early September. He had revealed Aug. 9 that he had recently checked himself into Winchester Hospital with suicidal thoughts. He said he was transferred to McLean Hospital, where he underwent treatment.
Minihane briefly returned to the show, but went back on his leave of absence Sept. 6.
“Still battling mental health issues,” Minihane tweeted. “Truth is I came back to work too fast.”
Minihane, who has long been candid about his battles with depression, acknowledged then that he was still working through some of the reasons for his struggles.
Those included conflicts with Entercom and WEEI management about the direction of the show.
“I’ve allowed a lot of this stuff with management to build in my head and I have to get to the point where I realize they’re never going to change,” he said then.
In recent weeks, there has been much suspense regarding when, or if, Minihane would return to “Kirk and Callahan.” He tweeted that he was cleared by his doctor to return Oct. 12, but WEEI would not put him back on the air.
He seemed headed for an acrimonious departure, with speculation percolating that he could end up at Barstool Sports. That was improbable given that Minihane is still under contract to Entercom for a couple more years.
He said on a podcast with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch Wednesday night that he was not certain why WEEI kept him off the show.
It’s been all over the place. We’ve had so many meetings in the last few months, I think they want the morning show to go in a different direction,” Minihane said. “I think they want less anger. I think they want less controversy. I think they want to talk more sports than Gerry and I have talked about the last couple of years.
“We’re as successful a local morning show as there is in America,’’ added Minihane, citing the show’s recent ratings successes. “But I think they don’t like the heat attached with it anymore. I think they want to go locally from a company perspective in a different direction, that is less acerbic, less — I guess they would use mean-spirited — and more of a traditional sports talk show.
“Obviously that’s not the way I would want to go. So that’s sort of been the dialogue back and forth. I think it’s unfortunate timing that this happens while I’ve been out for a few months, given the reasons I’ve been out too . . . We were at a faceoff I think at the last week or two over that.”
Minihane had a palpably positive effect on ratings when he joined WEEI’s morning show as a third voice in February 2013 and again as an official cohost in 2016 when longtime host John Dennis left the show.
“Kirk and Callahan” was the highest-rated morning drive show in Boston over the summer among the men 25-54 demographic.
The deal does appear to be mutually beneficial to Minihane and Entercom in some ways.
Minihane gets to shape the Radio.com show with the edgy, personality-driven approach he prefers, rather than having to follow at least a cursory sports format.
And WEEI’s morning show, as politically charged as it can be, is less likely to run into trouble with advertisers and high-profile guests in Minihane’s absence.
In 2014, Fox temporarily pulled its advertising when Minihane referred to Fox Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews as a “gutless bitch” for the way she handled an interview during baseball’s All-Star Game. Minihane was briefly suspended.
In August, Tom Brady hung up during his paid weekly appearance on “Kirk and Callahan” after Minihane pressed him with questions about Alex Guerrero, the quarterback’s controversial trainer.
Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.