Liberal net Air America files Chapter 11


A month after its star host Al Franken complained to reporters that his paycheck had stopped coming, Air America Radio has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In court documents filed Friday under the name of parent company Piquant Llc., the politically liberal talk-radio entity declared that it had $4.3 million in assets but $20.3 million in liabilities, about half of which is owed to RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser.

Glaser has been bankrolling Air America since about the time it was launched more than two years ago.

Besides owing Glaser about $10.3 million, Air America creditors also include RealNetworks ($85,100), Clear Channel Communications ($561,723), Arbitron ($161,345) and Westwood One Radio Networks ($14,000), according to the documents.

The company also owes Franken $360,750, as well as varying sums of money to hosts Mike Malloy, Mike Papantonio and its trio known as the Young Turks. Another Air America top-talker, Janeane Garofalo, quietly quit a few months back.

It owes $10,000 to the Jackson Hole Group, a consultant firm founded by Jim Wiggett, a former CEO of Air America, now run by chief executive Scott Elberg.

"Nobody likes filing for bankruptcy, however, this move will enable us to concentrate on informing and entertaining our audience during the coming months," Elberg said.

Air America is heard on 92 stations nationwide and on XM Satellite Radio. A spokesman at XM confirmed that there were no plans to interrupt its Air America programming.

The bankruptcy, an Air America spokeswoman said, "became necessary only recently when good-faith efforts to resolve outstanding debt with a creditor from the company's earliest days broke down."

The spokeswoman wouldn't name the creditor, though some observers speculated it might be Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, which is owed $550,245 by Air America, according to the bankruptcy filing. Multiculturalism complained in April 2004 that Air America was bouncing checks that were to have paid for the lease of radio stations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Air America reportedly has been operating on about a $26 million annual budget. According to bankruptcy documents, the company lost $19.6 million last year and $9.1 million the year before.