Jeff Smulyan
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Jeff Smulyan
Jeff Smulyan
Jeffrey Smulyan

(1947-04-06) April 6, 1947 (age 72)
EducationB.A and J.D. University of Southern California
Known forfounder and CEO of Emmis Communications
owner of the Seattle Mariners
Janine Ginger Smulyan (divorced)
Heather Hill Smulyan

Jeffrey Smulyan born April 6, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana is the founder and CEO of Emmis Communications.

Early life and education

Smulyan was born to a Jewish family, the son of Natalie (née Stolkin) and Sam Smulyan.[1][2] He has one brother and one sister.[2] His father owned the local Howard Johnson motel franchise and was president of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck.[3] He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Southern California.[1] While in law school, he wrote for the school's Law Review and specialized in federal communications law.[1]


In 1973,[3] he returned to Indianapolis where he his father purchased WNTS-AM for $400,000 and named Jeff vice president and general manager.[4] WNTS failed as a talk station and went religious, a format Jeff had no interest in managing.[4] In 1980, he founded Emmis Broadcasting Corporation as the principal shareholder and began to purchase radio stations: WENS in Indianapolis; WLOL in Minneapolis; KSHE in St. Louis; KPWR in Los Angeles; WQHT (1986) and WFAN (1986) in New York; and WAVA (1986) in Washington D.C.[4] making EMMIS the largest privately owned radio broadcasting company in America.[1][4] In 1988, he purchased KXXX in San Francisco; WKQX in Chicago; WJIB in Boston; and WYNY and WNBC in New York.[4] He also purchased the Indianapolis Monthly magazine.[4] He pioneered the all sports radio format converting WYNY and WNBC (where he had exclusive rights to the New York Mets) to all sports.[4] In 1991, he sold WFAN for $70 million, the highest price ever paid for a radio station.[4]

As of 2016, Indianapolis-based Emmis operates the ninth-largest radio portfolio in the U.S. owning 19 FM and four AM radio stations in Indianapolis, New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Austin, Texas.[5] Emmis (the Hebrew word for "truth") also developed and licensed TagStation, a cloud-based software platform that allows a broadcaster to manage album art, metadata and enhanced advertising on its various broadcasts; and developed NextRadio, a smartphone application that paired FM radio broadcasts with visual and interactive features on smartphones; and created DialReport, a data attribution platform for the radio industry. TagStation and NextRadio operations were discontinued in late 2018.[6]

Seattle Mariners

In 1989, Smulyan with partners, purchased the Seattle Mariners from George Argyros for $75 million.[4] Smulyan held the largest interest and contributed $35 million while the remainder was contributed by Morgan Stanley ($20 million); other investors ($5 million); and the remainder via bank financing.[4][7] After struggling to make the team profitable, he attempted to relocate the team to St. Petersburg, Florida but was thwarted by a clause in his lease requiring that he sell the team if a purchaser made a bid that would keep the Mariners in Seattle.[4] In 1992, Nintendo, promising to keep the team in Seattle, purchased the team for $100 million.[4]

In 2005, Smulyan made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Washington Nationals baseball team.[8]

Honors and accolades

In 1994, Smulyan was named by the White House to head the U.S. Delegation to the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunications Union. As a U.S. ambassador, he helped to negotiate agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.[9] Smulyan is a former director of the National Association of Broadcasters, former chair of the Radio Advertising Bureau, and a past chair of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. He serves on the board of trustees of his alma mater, University of Southern California.[10] Smulyan has been recognized as a Giant of Broadcasting by the Library of American Broadcasting[11], received the National Association of Broadcasters National Radio Award, and was inducted in the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and the Indiana Business Hall of Fame.[12] The Broadcasters Foundation honored him with its Golden Mike Award and in 2017 he received the Lowry Mays Excellence in Broadcasting Award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America.[13] He received the Indianapolis Business Journal's Mike Carroll Award for civic leadership.[14] and he was named an Indiana Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society[15].

Personal life

He has been married twice. In 1975, he married Janine J. Ginger.[16][17] They had two children: Cari and Bradley. The marriage ended in divorce in 1988.[4][18][19] In 2003, he married Heather Hill;[20] they have a daughter, Samantha Ann.[21] In 1981, Smulyan and his wife were contestants on the NBC game show Las Vegas Gambit.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d Watson, Emmett. "Family Source Tells All On Mariners". Seattle Times. The Smulyans, you are pleased to conclude, have a fine sense of what might be called Midwest-Jewish values. They are a very close-knit family.
  2. ^ a b "Natalie J. Smulyan". Indianapolis Star. September 30, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Indianapolis Star: "Media Mogul has Nice Guy Image" September 15, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Andelman, Bob (February 17, 2015). Stadium For Rent: Tampa Bay's Quest for Major League Baseball. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781507655061.
  5. ^ Indianapolis Star: "After Jeff Smulyan's go-private offer, Emmis investors suddenly see big value" by Jeff Briggs August 22, 2016
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  7. ^ Egan, Timothy (24 January 1992). "Japanese Bid for Seattle Team Gets Baseball's Cold Shoulder". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010.
  8. ^ "Smulyan discusses his plans". Washington Times. October 19, 2005.
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  16. ^ "Janine J. Ginger and Jeffrey H. Smulyan were married last night in LaTour Restaurant". The Indianapolis Star. November 2, 1975. The ceremony was performed by Ezra Friedlander. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ginger of Chicago are parents of the bride. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois State University. Parents of the bridegroom are Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Smulyan. He graduated from the University of Southern California and its School of Law.
  17. ^ "Robert C. Baxter, of Arlington Heights, IL died on August 14, 2010". Chicago Tribune. August 22, 2010.
  18. ^ a b "Las Vegas Gambit, May 14, 1981". YouTube. Retrieved 2014. minute 19:10
  19. ^ Sky Blue Window: "In My Closet: Cari Smulyan" By Shelby Roby-Terr April 2, 2015
  20. ^ The Indianapolis Star: "New love: Jeff Smulyan keeps photos of new wife Heather Hill Smulyan in his office" September 15, 2003
  21. ^ Emmis Communications Corporation website: "Who We Are: Jeff Smulyan, Chairman, CEO, and Founder" retrieved March 2, 2017

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