He's the man shock jock Howard Stern nicknamed "the incubus," and who fired Stern twice-in New York in 1985 and in Canada in 2001. But John Hayes would rather be known as the executive who left the radio arm of Toronto-based Corus Entertainment Inc. in much better shape than it was when he took over as division president seven years ago. Hayes, 58, stepped down in August, closing the latest chapter in a 36-year career that has carried him from London to Seattle, and might include a few more stops before he calls it quits.
How did you get into radio? My dad was a senior executive, and he wanted me to take business in university, but I just couldn't get through Accounting 101. I became a mail boy one summer at ABC radio and TV in Detroit. I went back to school and changed my major to radio and television.
How did your parents take it? I broke the news to them at Thanksgiving dinner, and my dad just went silent and turned red. My mother was uncharacteristically supportive and said, "If this is what he wants, he should do it." Then she reached over the table, held my arm and said, "Now, after dinner, I'd like you to look at the television in the den because I can't get Channel 9."
Over 37 years, is there anything you haven't done in radio? I haven't done religion. I haven't done classical or ethnic radio.
Why leave Corus now? Seven years as division president is a long time. My guru is Peter Drucker, and he believed that after seven years, an executive becomes ineffective in any given role. Unless you own the company, that's a logical jumping-off point. And I have another 10 years to work. I enjoy the business. I'm fascinated by the way that legacy media are beginning to have to change-to either integrate or be overrun by new media. I want to be part of the new age.
Haven't you indicated an interest in being CEO again? Yes, and Corus has a CEO [John Cassaday] He's brilliant, he does a great job, and that was a job I was never interested in. Corus is a media company, a content-creation company, a publicly traded company, a dual-class-share company. There were just so many facets that I don't think I would be very good at-which isn't to say I couldn't become so. But when I added it all up, my talent and skill were not compatible for the CEO job at Corus. I don't think I would have been considered, to be honest.
What kind of company would you want to lead? A new-media and radio company, or just new media. My history and expertise are in building companies. I'd prefer that it be privately held, not publicly traded.
Will the next job take you back to the U.S.? Not necessarily. My wife and I are in the process of becoming Canadian citizens. We became permanent residents in 2006. We like Toronto, and we have no immediate plans to move anywhere. On the other hand, if a great opportunity in Shanghai, London or New York came up, we'd have no compunction about moving.
Will you be emotional on the last day? I don't think anybody would characterize me as being emotional. No, I think I'll just go quietly into the good night and wish everyone well.
What would be the title of your autobiography? The Man Who Fired Howard Stern? There's a lot of mythology around that, and the fact is that I didn't really make the decision to fire Howard either time it happened. I just got the credit for it-or the blame, depending on which side you're on.
How about your own departure? Did you jump or were you pushed? I think it's a mutual decision that John and I had talked about. We had a very honest and open relationship. We both realized I would not be committed to this for the time period that he wanted me to be committed for. If there was a push, I was on the ledge anyway.Report Typo/Error