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'Money Man' Daniel Frishberg making the most of your money on his BizRadio

July 28, 2007

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'Money Man' Daniel Frishberg offers up tips for making the most of your money on his BizRadio

 

Wall Street guru Daniel Frishberg offers up tips for making the most of your money on his BizRadio

 

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, July 28, 2007

 

By ANGELA SHAH / The Dallas Morning News
ashah@dallasnews.com

 

As the evening rush hour gets under way, calls to the radio's Money Man begin to come in ... worn-out Working Joes on the daily commute back to suburbia, seeking tips for a better life by way of the stock market.

"This stuff is not that hard, but you've got to be thinking about somebody besides yourself," the talk show host advises his caller.

Such a charitable strategy is not what you'd expect from a Wall Street guru. But then, Daniel Sholom Frishberg is an atypical prophet.

With sights on becoming America's first national business radio network, his BizRadio's mission is to shed light on what Mr. Frishberg calls two financial industries: One designed by and for Wall Street insiders and another that – he claims – shortchanges everyday investors.

"Look, I listen to these lies," the money manager said of the investment community. "They say it's all a random walk, you know. Diversify the portfolio. Buy and hold.

"Meanwhile, they're moving hundreds of billions of dollars around by the second each day," he said. "Nobody ever tells the people the real story."

BizRadio is now leasing airtime in Houston and Dallas. But its executives plan to buy stations in both cities by the end of the year. And each station will house a BizRadio Institute, a bricks-and-mortar complement to the broadcasts offering classes to educate listeners.

With the slogan, "The sound of your money growing," its programming is aimed at the rich seeking to be richer, as well as to those who aspire to join that club. The network's focus on letting outsiders in has won it loyal followers. Since hitting the AM dial more than two years ago, it has grown to about 25,000 listeners in each 15-minute time slot, according to numbers from Arbitron, network executives said. In 2006, the stations brought in slightly more than $1 million in revenue, according to executives there.

Growth ahead

Now, BizRadio is planning to take its Texas-bred show on the road, moving into the Chicago market in the fall of 2008. The idea, executives said, is to have affiliates in the top 10 radio markets in the country by the end of 2009.

Such programming "feeds into the American hunger for self-improvement," said radio analyst and commentator Tom Taylor.

"It has the ability to reach out and find listeners and get them hooked," he said. "The message – whether religious, financial or lifestyle – they feel, nourishes them and betters their life."

Weekdays, BizRadio airs programs on real estate, investing and financial planning from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on AM 1360 in Dallas and AM 1320 in Houston.

Well-known businessmen such as Jack Welch, Art Laffer and Steve Forbes have appeared on Mr. Frishberg's "The Money Man Report."

"It's not dumbed down, but it's drilled home for listeners: 'How do I take this back home to me?' " said Dallas consultant Greg Bustin, who's made about a dozen appearances on various BizRadio shows.

Most radio stations use Arbitron ratings when setting their advertising rates. BizRadio instead "brokers," or sells, time to presenters such as Del Walmsley, a real estate expert, and Vince Rowe, who owns three franchises of the California-based Online Trading Academy, which trains investors. They pay to give listeners information along with their name – but are prohibited from turning the programs into overt ads.

This is a business model long used by religious radio. Hosts – whether preaching about God or the almighty dollar – purchase hourly slots of airtime for about $10,000 to $20,000 a month in hopes their erudite commentary will lure converts.

But BizRadio itself now has to lease the airtime it sells to hosts, and those payments are the reason the two affiliates are not yet profitable, Mr. Frishberg said. That will change by year's end when the network buys its stations and thereby cuts overhead costs, he added.

While the pay-to-play format is sometimes associated with dubious endeavors like "psychic businessman" infomercials, radio analyst Robert Unmacht said BizRadio appears to have higher standards.

"It seems to be very professional and very dedicated to being about smart business," said Mr. Unmacht, with IN3 Partners Inc., a radio consulting firm in Nashville, Tenn.

Critics' view

But others criticize the BizRadio approach.

"That's not good radio," said Skip Joeckel, a Colorado-based radio broker who sells syndicated programs to stations nationwide. "That model is not to please the listener, it's to sell time."

Brent Clanton, the network's general manager, insists BizRadio can do both by preventing hosts from plugging their services on air. "If listeners like what they're hearing," they will seek out those businesses on their own, he explained.

"If we're not doing a good job, people will go away," the 30-year radio veteran added. "It's the ultimate democracy. They will vote by their radio dials."

The network's Web site is full of comments apparently posted by fans, listeners and advertisers, exuding an almost cultlike devotion:

"You guys have the best radio program I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, hands down, bar none," writes someone identifying himself as "Jim A."

Shepherding this virtual congregation is Mr. Frishberg, whose grandfather whet his appetite for Wall Street with visits to the exchange when he was a boy growing up in New York.

Theatrical detour

But he arrived in business by a circuitous route – first taking a detour into theater.

Mr. Frishberg got the acting bug when he attended New York University in the late 1960s, as he found himself more interested in liberal arts courses than the business classes in his major. Later, he did summer stock theater while attending HB Studio acting school.

He then bounced from New York advertising, to six months relaxing in Florence and London, to plans for a real estate development in western Massachusetts. The 1970s energy crisis squashed that venture.

That's when he decided to move to the sunnier economic climes of Texas.

In Houston, Mr. Frishberg hooked up with a real estate syndicator specializing in tax shelters. But changes in tax law, combined with a new marriage, prompted a move to Prudential's brokerage and financial planning units in San Antonio.

Back in the financial world, his acting background served him well. He began making appearances on radio and TV news shows for Prudential, earning him the media-friendly title, "The Money Man."

But it was also while working for the big brokerage that Mr. Frishberg began to form his view of two Wall Streets. "You were supposed to look like you were advising somebody, but you were not allowed to originate any advice at all," he said. "You would sell what they told you to sell."

Not surprisingly, he ran crosswise with his bosses. In 1992, he quit and eventually started his own firm, now known as Frishberg Jordan & Stewart Advisors. His early training in acting, combined with the media appearances, eased his transition to radio. In 2002, CBS radio asked him to return to Houston for a show on Business Radio 650.

Two years later, however, CBS brought Howard Stern's highly popular program to town, and Mr. Frishberg's business-themed commentary was nudged aside.

Network idea

Dismayed listeners approached Mr. Frishberg with an investment proposition: "I told him, 'Let's raise some capital and invest in a station,' " said David Wallace, a veteran investment banker and BizRadio's largest investor, with about $5 million at stake. Mr. Wallace is also mayor of the Houston suburb of Sugarland.

About 30 other investors joined in, bringing the total invested to about $12 million to get the network started.

Now, BizRadio has something akin to its own community, with Mr. Frishberg at the helm.

At a recent event at Texas Indoor Golf in Grapevine, radio personalities mingled with advertisers and listeners. Over free samples of Glenlivet whiskey and freshly carved roast beef sandwiches, they swapped business cards and greeted Mr. Frishberg like a celebrity.

The former actor basked in the admiration of the assembled group ... strangers connected by the power of his business radio pulpit.

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