If Jerry Sachs ever wanted to run for a political office, he wouldn’t have to look far for a campaign manager: He could call on Rip Riordan, the president and chief operating officer of Clear Channel Television in Minneapolis.
‘Jerry Sachs for President!,’ exclaims Riordan.
An unabashed fan of Sachs, Riordan says, ‘I think he’s the happiest, friendliest guy I ever met. He’s got the biggest smile in the television business. When I talk to him, lots of times I call him Uncle Jerry.’
Riordan recalls meeting Sachs more than 10 years ago, when Riordan was a sales manager for an independent station. ‘I worked with Jerry on program clearances, and I remember when he started doing a test for Ninja Turtles. He was the first one who was able to see that it would be a big hit.’ Sachs was way ahead of Riordan on that point.
‘I didn’t think it would be big at all! It’s probably one of the biggest hit for kids prior to Power Rangers. There’s the show, the toy line, the movies-and Jerry spotted a hit before anybody else did.’
Riordan’s company owns 17 TV stations across the country, including WFTC in Minneapolis, Minnesota, WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, WPTY in Memphis, Tennessee, and WAWS in Jacksonville, Florida. ‘We have six Fox stations and six UPN stations, and I guess they all carry some of Jerry’s shows,’ Riordan says.
But it isn’t just Sachs’ ability to spot hits and trends that makes him a leader in his field. ‘Usually in this business, it’s easier to talk about the negatives than the positives, but with Jerry it’s easier to talk about the positives,’ Riordan comments. ‘He has a love of the business. He radiates. He’s one of those people who loves life and loves people. He loves to introduce people to other people. He’s extraordinary. And he really believes in children’s television and educational television.’
One especially poignant memory Riordan has of working with Sachs took place soon after the Los Angeles earthquake. Sachs lost his house to the quake and took pictures of his daughter who came to say goodbye to the cherished home before it was demolished. Sachs showed those pictures to Riordan during a business trip.
‘Most people talk only about work,’ observes Riordan. ‘Jerry is a special man who can share his personal side as well. He allows you to get close. That’s what makes you love him.’
Another amazing asset of Sachs is his generosity. ‘He’s been a personal friend and adviser,” says Riordan. ‘Anytime I have an idea about a kids show or games, I call Jerry. He’s always given free advice and time to me and to friends of mine.’ Sachs also syndicated Jake’s Attic, a TV show created by Riordan three years ago that focused on science experiments for kids. Sachs was instrumental in having the show tested in 212 markets.
And Riordan isn’t the only one who holds Sachs in such high esteem. One time, when Riordan was promoted to president, Sachs sent him a plant. Soon afterward, Riordan had a visit from Bruce Braun, an advertising executive from L.A. When Braun saw the plant, and Riordan began talking about Sachs, they wound up exchanging stories for 30 minutes, and Braun shared Riordan’s enthusiasm for Sachs’ reputation.
‘You can ask anyone around the country and they’ll say Jerry Sachs keeps his word,’ adds Riordan. ‘You don’t need a piece of paper signed when Jerry’s involved. He always keeps his word. He’s such an honest man in a competitive business, and that’s very rare.’
There are even elements of Sachs’ personality that remind Riordan of Will Rogers. ‘He’s one of those few people who never met anybody he didn’t like,’ the Clear Channel president says. ‘He seems to like everybody he meets-a real enthusiastic, happy guy. He’s a fun guy to be in the same room with.’
Riordan believes that Sachs’ contribution g’es beyond his work in the entertainment industry. ‘Any time you build a company and employ people, and you help advertisers market their product, and you do it in an honest, clear way, and operate a good business, you’re doing something for society,’ comments Riordan.
Younger people in the industry could learn a lot from Jerry Sachs, Riordan notes: ‘To get ahead in this business, you don’t have to step on other people. If you do your job well, build solid relationships, and keep your word, you will achieve success.’