Nat Sibbold, former WWJ radio executive, dies at 94

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
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Detroit – Nestor A. “Nat” Sibbold, 94, former station manager of WWJ-AM and FM, former owner of WBCK-AM in Battle Creek and a broadcasting executive for 30 years, died on July 18.

Nestor A. “Nat” Sibbold

The cause of death was cardiovascular disease, his son David Sibbold said.

Sibbold, who lived in Canton, began working for WWJ as an account executive in 1956, when the station was owned by The Evening News Association, which also owned The Detroit News. Sibbold became sales manager in 1961 and station manager in 1968, serving in that capacity until 1976.

He served as manager when NBC relinquished ownership of the station, CBS bought it, and WWJ switched to its current, all-news format in 1971.

The next year, Sibbold and a group of investors formed Wolverine Broadcasting and purchased WBCK, the largest AM station in Battle Creek and one of the most prominent broadcasters in western Michigan.

He ran the station, including playing a role in the consolidation of Battle Creek Township into the city in 1983, until 1987, when he sold it to the Liggett Broadcast Group.

Sibbold knew and worked with some of the national figures in broadcasting of the era, including the network news anchors Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and the entertainer Bob Hope, his family said.

“I never was able to meet Mr. Sibbold,” said Tim Collins, the current operations manager and morning host on WBCK. “But I worked with many people who did, and he had a great reputation for being community-minded and insisted that his staff conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism.”

In the early 1970s, when the Michigan Marching Band formed the letters WWJ on the field of Michigan Stadium at half time to celebrate 50 years of the radio station broadcasting the Wolverines, Sibbold and Athletic Director Don Canham helped organize the affair.

Sibbold was born June 23, 1925, in Fort William, Ontario, Canada — now called Thunder Bay. His parents had emigrated from Ukraine and Poland after World War I.

He was the youngest of four children, and the last survivor.

Singing frequently as a youth, Sibbold eventually studied voice at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He turned professional in 1945.

After some near-misses in show business, Sibbold became the master of ceremonies for the Ice Capades.

He moved to the United States, became an American citizen and eventually settling in Plymouth, after meeting and marrying Jean O’Meara, the principal skater in the show.

O’Meara, a U.S. champion in pairs skating, trained at Riverside Arena in Livonia.

The couple married at the First Presbyterian Church in Plymouth in 1947.

Sibbold is survived by his children, David (Janet) Sibbold, Kathy Szlachtowicz and Linda (Tom) Kelly, who were with him when he died; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A private family service is to be held Aug. 1 at the First Presbyterian Church.

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