Former NAB president tells all-star Washington reception that he will soon open his own firm, Fritts Group LLC.
Let’s get this straight: Eddie Fritts is not retiring. In fact, the former president of the NAB announced yesterday evening at his “retirement party” at the Washington Willard Hotel that he was opening his own firm, Fritts Group LLC. He wouldn’t provide details about the venture—they’ll come later, he said—but it’s presumed it will be a vehicle for Fritts to continue to represent broadcasters and other clients before the FCC and Congress. “If you ever slow down,” he told a large crowd of well wishers, “the back end will run over the front end. I don’t intend to let that happen to me.”
After feuding with members of the NAB TV board, Fritts stepped down as president of the association last fall. But there was no evidence of discord at the party, just hundreds of his colleagues, friends and past and present NAB staffers offering thanks and congratulations. “I consider it a celebration of 23 years of success,” Fritts said.
Potential clients of Fritts Group LLC had to be impressed by the crowd. Speaking in praise of Fritts were his fellow Mississippians, Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott. The latter roasted his old friend from college days at the University of Mississippi. “He would probably be pumping gas if it were not for [his wife] Martha Dale,” he said.
NAB Joint Board Chairman Bruce Reese of Bonneville Broadcasting emceed and got the biggest laugh, with a slip of the tongue. He wrapped up his opener by quoting Fritts: “In Washington, there are no final victories, and no final deceits…defeats.”
Also dropping by to shake Fritts’s hand: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking minority member John Dingell, Rep. John Tanner, Rep. Bart Gordon, Rep. Michael McCaul, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate, former FCC Chairmen Dick Wiley and James Quello and former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera.
Although NBC, CBS and Fox quit NAB over the media-ownership fight a few years ago, their top Washington representatives were there—Bob Okun, Marty Franks and Mike Regan.
Tribune Co. Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons led a contingent of current and former NAB board members, including Lowry Mays of Clear Channel, Gary Chapman of LIN TV and Disney/ABC representative Preston Padden.
In listing his accomplishments at the NAB, Fritts noted that he left the NAB with a “reserve” of $85 million. That got the room buzzing. “I can assure you it’s locked down,” he said. “And I don’t know the combination.”