McMurray on to ‘bigger and better things’ after firing

You could almost hear the relief in Pete McMurray’s voice after they told him he was fired Wednesday.

He’d been waiting for the ax to fall since the end of July when Merlin Media dropped him from his second run as morning personality on classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9) and shifted him to voice-tracking mornings on adult contemporary WIQI-FM (101.1).

Now the Chicago radio veteran — who’d been the last man standing at the old WCKG and the old Loop — was out at i101, too. But there were no regrets.

“The writing’s been on the wall for months,” McMurray told me on his way home.  “I knew it was the beginning of the end when I left the Loop. But hey, good luck to them. I hope it works out for them. I’m on to bigger and better things.”

Merlin Media officials declined to comment on McMurray's departure Wednesday. Insiders said his co-host, Jane Monzures, will continue with the station, and that McMurray’s duties will be assigned to other personnel. In other words, he won’t be replaced.

The move comes as the company consolidates its ranks following the sale October 8 of its New York station, WRXP-FM, to CBS Radio for $75 million. Although CEO Randy Michaels denies it, the rest of Merlin Media's stations are also believed to be for sale.

McMurray, 45, has enjoyed a high public profile in Chicago ever since he first came to WCKG in 1998 from WXRX-FM in Rockford, where he’d been a big morning star. But radio has always been his true love. He’d grown up listening to Jonathon Brandmeier and Steve Dahl, and got his start in the business at WWCT-FM in his native Peoria.

Even with the loss of his job this week, McMurray still works at no fewer than four other media outlets in town: He’s co-host of 24/7, the weekly magazine show produced by Key to the City Productions and airing at 12:30 Saturday nights on NBC 5; he appears on Fox Kickoff Sunday and The Final Word on Fox Chicago; he’s a contributor to Red Eye Chicago’s Five on Five feature; and he works as affiliate director at Good Parts Media, a radio prep service that supplies content to stations across the country. “You can’t afford to quit anything nowadays, especially in media,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

I asked McMurray if all that he has been through has soured him on radio or Chicago.

“I love radio,” he said without hesitation. “I’ll never move from this city. Something will come up. It always does. This is the greatest radio market in the world. OK, not right now. It used to be. And we need to bring it back. I’d love to work for somebody in this city and make great radio. I want to work for a good company.”

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)