Radio and television firebrand Glenn Beck’s multi-platform business empire—once celebrated as a $90 million-a-year conservative media juggernaut but more recently afflicted by plunging revenue, online traffic and paid subscribers along with mass layoffs—is no more.
According to longtime Beck associates who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity, that is the bottom line of Monday’s announcement that his financially troubled outlet, TheBlaze, has merged with CRTV, a two-year-old spinoff of Conservative Review, a media company founded by rabidly pro-Trump talk radio star and Fox News host Mark Levin.
Although the newly formed company is being called Blaze Media, Beck is “basically turning over to control to CRTV and his empire is basically ending with a whimper,” said a former associate of the man who, at the height of his success a decade ago, likened himself to “a rodeo clown.”
The freshly reconfigured enterprise places Beck on a Blaze TV roster not only with Levin but with the the likes of perpetually outraged pundit Michelle Malkin and alleged anti-Semite and white supremacist Gavin McInnes, founder of the sometimes violent Proud Boys group of aspiring thugs. (After this story was filed, Malkin announced on Twitter that she has quit.)
The 54-year-old Beck, whose popular radio program is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, has been searching for a financial partner to save his faltering business enterprise at least since February of this year, when his reported sales talks with conservative media personality Ben Shapiro and Shapiro’s The Daily Wire went nowhere.
“We always thought Glenn was opposed to bailouts,” a former Beck employee told The Daily Beast on Monday—a reference to Beck’s bitter hostility to the federal government’s loans to stressed financial institutions and troubled automakers in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
The ex-employee added acidly: “The only person who could possibly be rescued by Mark Levin is Glenn Beck."
That characterization, echoed by other Beck alumni on Monday, is sharply at odds with an interview that the Dallas, Texas-based Beck gave on Sunday to The Hollywood Reporter in which he claimed that TheBlaze has been making a profit for the past 12 months and that the newly formed company will allow him to make feature films.
“Dallas will be the epicenter,” Beck bragged to the trade publication, “but we’ll be like a movie studio, like United Artists. It’s a much better system for the talent.”
Beck also claimed: “We worked hard to make sure we’re in the black. If we had spoken to CRTV a couple of years ago, it would have been a different story,” he said. “We talked about a merger when neither of us needs it. That’s the best time.”
Meanwhile, the article quoted unidentified “insiders” as claiming that the merged company will “reach 165 million people via television, digital platforms and social media.”
“This is the beginning of scale,” Beck declared.
A former Beck associate called the claims “total nonsense.” The Beck alum also expressed deep skepticism that Beck, who frequently talked about himself as a latter-day Walt Disney, will be able to use Blaze Media as his launching pad to start a movie studio. “He can’t help himself,” this person said about Beck’s grand talk.
As for the CRTV merger, this person added: “It was either this or shut down.”
Ben Shapiro, meanwhile, texted The Daily Beast that Beck and Levin are “both powerhouses, and I’m excited to see what they do next.”
Levin, for his part, was quoted by The Hollywood Reporter as describing the merger as a way “to further expand and offer the public an alternative to liberal media group-think.”
He added: “Tens of millions of Americans have had it with the biased, ideologically driven mainstream media outlets that sanctimoniously advance their own agendas under the guise of ‘news’ and ‘journalism.’ Conservatives actually believe in a free press and the rest of the Constitution.”
On his 1.43 million-follower Twitter feed, however, an apparently annoyed Levin quibbled with Beck’s assertion that Dallas will be the “epicenter” of the merged company, and with The Hollywood Reporter’s headline suggesting that it is he and Beck who are merging.
“The decision for the merger was made by the principals of CRTV and TheBlaze. Also, the headquarters will not be in Dallas, TX,” Levin tweeted. “CRTV issued the following correction to the Hollywood Reporter story: Mark Levin and Glenn Beck did not merge. CRTV and TheBlaze merged. Mr. Levin does not hold management authority in CRTV.”
Beck’s TheBlaze and his umbrella company Mercury Radio Arts, named in homage to his hero Orson Welles and Welles’ Mercury Theater, have been hemorrhaging money and people for the past few years—ever since Beck pushed out his longtime management team and hired a little known tech entrepreneur named Jonathan Schreiber to run his business.
Amid constant turmoil, layoffs, and executive reshuffling, Schreiber left the company a year ago, but not before writing a discursive 3,400-word essay that, in retrospect, can be seen as an epitaph for The Blaze.
“What does success look like? If you are an entrepreneur, this seemingly simple question may be hard to answer. And no one even tells you to think about it, let alone helps you define it,” Schreiber wrote in meandering essay that blamed the company’s troubles a general decline in the popularity of “conservative media.”
“Failure, on the other hand, is easy to define,” he went on. “I am certain that TheBlaze is not a failure, yet I am equally as sure that TheBlaze is not a success.”