Drew Lane leaves 105.1: ‘It was not about the money’

Susan Whitall, and Tony Paul

Longtime Detroit radio personality Drew Lane and Greater Media have parted ways —- again. The broadcaster announced that Lane will depart his afternoon drive show on the Detroit Sports 105.1 immediately, as he did not renew his contract.

According to Steve Chessare, vice president/market manager for Greater Media Detroit, the issue wasn’t money.

“The only issue we had is in show content,” Chessare said. “Drew has done a phenomenal job for Greater Media for 24 years, and he was instrumental in us getting the sports station launched, but we’ve come to recognize that we’ve got to be true to our format, which is sports, both to the audience and our clients and partners, that we deliver a sports product.

“I was trying to impress on Drew to infuse more sports into the show, and Drew was not comfortable doing any more than he was doing right now. We had an issue, in that we weren’t recycling the audience throughout the rest of the day and vice versa. Out of respect for Drew and what he’s built and how successful he’s been, we’re OK with his decision not to continue and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Chessare’s comments differ from what he and then-program director Jason Dixon said when the station switched formats to sports in August 2013, using Lane as the centerpiece show.

Back then, Chessare and Dixon said that while the station was to be sports-centric, they wanted Lane to be Lane and feel comfortable talking about all sorts of topics, from sports to pop culture to the news of the day.

That format made Lane popular when he was on the “Drew & Mike” show he co-hosted at Greater Media's WRIF, before “Drew & Mike” were dropped from WRIF in 2013.

“We’ve been talking about this for awhile, so it was no big shock today,” Lane told The News on Monday. “It was not about money, absolutely not. It was about adding a third person to the show would’ve been a sports person, somebody from the sports world, whether it was a media member or maybe a (former) player. They talked about that in the past. Having the chemistry our show had for all these years, I just didn’t really want to do a three-person show.”

While on air at 105.1, Lane worked with Marc Fellhauer, who goes back with him; he was a producer and online personality on “Drew & Mike.”

It is unclear if Fellhauer will stay on at 105.1. He did not return phone and text messages from The News. Lane said he didn’t know what would happen, but was hopeful that the station would keep Fellhauer on.

Dixon was fired as program director in early February, and was replaced by Dave Shore of Los Angeles in late February.

Since Shore came aboard, the morning program with Ryan Ermanni and Rico Beard has expanded from 10 a.m. to noon, to 8 a.m. to noon, and added high-school and fantasy football shows. Now comes the news that Lane is out.

Lane said he’s made it known to 105.1 brass for months that he wasn’t comfortable with a third person on the show, and he told them Wednesday that he would not do it. During talks over the weekend, it was clear to Lane he was going to be out.

“I said I couldn’t do that. They were surprised, and I was surprised they were surprised because I thought I was pretty clear,” Lane said. “I pleaded my case Wednesday of last week, that I really believed in the show, the chemistry and how important it is. It’s not a personal thing.

“Three-people shows tend to be a big mic fight. Nothing sounds worse than a mic fight — where you've gotta be careful about taking too big a breath.”

It’s unclear who 105.1 was thinking about in terms of adding a sports personality, though Shore has put Sean Baligian and Drew Sharp on the air extensively since coming aboard.

Baligian hosts a popular daily show in Grand Rapids, and Sharp writes columns for the Detroit Free Press.

Baligian and Jake Chapman, who works on the station's Pistons broadcasts, did the midday show from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, filling in for Matt Dery, who will fill in for Lane from 3-7 p.m. until a permanent replacement is hired. Dery appears a candidate for that show, though it'd likely be with a co-host. He did his midday shows solo. Sharp was on with him Monday.

Detroit Sports 105.1 has struggled to gain a huge chunk of the sports-talk pie since debuting 26 months ago. Rival 97.1 The Ticket remains the big-time winner in the ratings, and that should remain the case now that 97.1 has re-upped to broadcast Tigers games, which draw huge numbers. Detroit Sports 105.1 made a very competitive bid, but lost to 97.1.

Lane's show drew easily the best ratings for 105.1, recently finishing fourth in its target market, 25- to 54-year-old men.

“It was as amicable a parting as you could have, under the circumstances,” said Loretta Ames, Lane's agent of Plunkett Cooney law firm. “He’s been a longtime member of the Greater Media family, and that’s a relationship that’s been important to him.”

Lane has a 12-week non-compete clause in his contract, and, in the meantime, he plans to busy himself with some local business interests and family.

He told The News he hopes to get back on the air, preferably back in the rock format. He's open to start his podcasts back up, a popular feature after the "Drew & Mike" show went off the air.