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How Howard Stern's Dad Was Secret Weapon in Sirius XM Deal

Howard Stern
Soul Brother/Getty Images

Jock said he'd imagine his dad calling him a "schmuck" when he thought about retiring.

Tense negotiations between Howard Stern and Sirius XM resulted in the world's highest-paid shock-jock announcing on his show Thursday that he signed on for another five years. And it might have been his dad that made the difference.

When the 56-year-old radio personality told his father Ben that he was considering retiring, the elder Stern talked him out of it, Stern told his audience.

"He kind of opened my eyes. He convinced me I enjoy it," Stern said. "I don't know how he did that."

"I hope he's right," Stern said. "I got five f---ing more years of this!"

Stern said that whenever he'd think about retiring instead of extending his contract beyond its Dec. 31 expiration, he'd imagine his dad calling him a "schmuck."

"He's a good psychiatrist. He helps me work through these things," Stern said.

"I'm making enough money now, I can buy you hair," he told his dad when he called in to his son's show Thursday.

HIs father encouraged Stern to stick with the company even when negotiations turned public and contentious. That's what happened Tuesday, when Stern went on a profanity-laced tirade over a suggestion from the company CFO that he might have to settle for less than the $100 million a year he has been making.
In the end, analysts figure Stern's new contract calls for $80 million a year, but he'll work more flexible hours, which Stern said Thursday was important to him. Neither he nor Sirius XM would confirm or deny the salary estimate. Stern joked Thursday that his new contract is worth $100 billion.

His crew, though, haven't come to terms with management. "We're in limbo," sidekick Robin Quivers said.

Stern said he had the contract in hand a few nights ago and was reading it in bed while in his underwear, trying to impress his wife, Beth.

"I'm sitting there with a f---ing major contract and Beth didn't care," he said. "I marked it up like a lawyer."

"I didn't realize I was supposed to stare at you," his wife said when she also called the show Thursday.

"I was so annoyed with you," Stern told her.

When it was all said and done, he admitted that his note-taking didn't amount to anything. "I have no idea what I signed," he said.

Stern said his negotiations started at a lower level, went to head of programming Scott Greenstein, then to CEO Mel Karmazin.

"I bet you Scott Greenstein's happy," Stern said. "I hope he leaves me alone."

The five-year contract also stipulates the show can be transmitted on mobile devices, but Stern admitted he hasn't a clue whether that means content will be available via on-demand podcast.

"There's so much more going on," he said. Included are his intentions to do some publicity interviews, with details to be worked out.

Stern sent some of his crew out to do man-on-the-street interviews, asking random people whether Howard Stern deserves a raise. Not until Sirius XM stock goes up, one man said.

For the record, the stock has already doubled this year, and it was up an additional 6% Thursday to $1.39.

Stern's taxes ought to be raised, said another interviewee. "I'm telling you, those tax cuts work," Stern responded, noting that his charitable giving is "way more" than it was when taxes were higher.

As he does now, Stern's contract calls for him to program two channels. He works a four-day week with a best-of show running Friday, though there will likely be tweaks to that schedule.

He also confirmed Thursday that there was at least some consideration given to the idea of moving the show to iTunes, though there were never "heavy discussions" with Apple.

In October 2004, when Stern said he would be joining Sirius 15 months later, the service had 600,000 subscribers, and only 10% of the country knew what satellite radio was. Today the service, now merged with XM, boasts 20 million subs, and 90% of the country is familiar with the name Sirius XM.

Karmazin has said often that Stern gets a lot of the credit for the country's increased awareness of the product, even though analysts estimate that only about one in 10 subscribers listen to Stern's show.

A portion of the $100 million Stern was being paid went to staffers. If the new contract stipulates similarly, Stern still is probably the world's highest-paid radio personality, beating out Rush Limbaugh's $50 million annual salary.

Stern said Thursday that this will be the last time he extends his contract.