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Interview with Jeff Smulyan

Five Rights reporters David Shiele and Adrian Hoskins with EMMIS Communications CEO, Jeff Smulyan.

By Adrian Hoskins

5 Rights | staff writer

Earlier this week reporters from 5 Rights News had a chance to meet with Jeff Smulyan, Chief Executive Officer of EMMIS Communications. This Indianapolis native organized the company and became its largest shareholder in 1980.

Smulyan attributes the majority of his success to a few key factors.

“The first thing—persistence, never quit,” said Smulyan.  “I love what I do, you must have a passion for what you want to do in life.”  Smulyan said he   was also fortunate to attract good people who work very hard.

As a graduate of University of Southern California, Jeff Smulyan received a B.A in History and Telecommunications. While at USC, he received a Juris Degree from the USC School of Law. He also served as the comment editor of the USC Law Review. In July 1981 he opened WENS in Shelbyville, Indiana. The station later became known as Hank F.M 97.1.

Although Smulyan acts as the CEO of one of FORTUNE magazine’s 2005 “100 Best Companies to Work For”, he still describes himself as non-threatening personality.

“I’m shy in some situations, a workaholic, and on a mission to rebuild this company,” said Smulyan.

On June 24, 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported Emmis stock is selling for $1.05.  At its highest value the stock traded at a value of $62.34 on December 31, 1991, according to This plummet and other challenges over the past few years are some of the situations from which the company wants to rebuild. These challenges include losing their broadcasting license in Hungary, having to sell all of their T.V. stations, selling multiple radio stations and WIBC’s traffic helicopter.

Meeting Smulyan, one would not think he was facing such hardships considering all the rewards and positions that he holds. In 1994 Smulyan was named Head of Delegation to Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunications Union, an ambassadorial position. He is director of the National Association of Broadcasters, chairman of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and more.  Smulyan has also owned a major league baseball team called the Seattle Mariners, which he later sold after three years. Smulyan says he really enjoys sports, evident in why he has owned sports formatted stations, such as WFNI-AM (1070 The Fan) in Indianapolis. He also enjoys politics and reading.