Nightly Business Report cuts jobs, closes Chicago bureau

By Dru Sefton

A new round of layoffs at Nightly Business Report, initiated last week, pared full-time staff to 22, down by half from two years ago.

Cutbacks included shuttering the show’s Chicago bureau, where chief correspondent Diane Eastabrook has worked for the weeknight financial show since 1993. Also gone is Michele Molnar, a New York–based photography editor since 1996, and Johnnie Streets, longtime senior stocks producer at headquarters in Miami. In all, six positions were eliminated. “We had to do this streamlining on behalf of our investor,” Rick Ray, NBR chief exec, told Current.

NBR lost its sole sponsor, Franklin Templeton Investments, in August. Backer Atalaya Capital Management “is writing all the checks,” Ray said. “It’s an expensive show to produce.” He declined to provide specifics.

The past two years have been tumultuous for NBR. WBPT-TV in Miami sold the media property to an educational-video salesman, Mykalai Kontilai, in August 2010. His NBR Worldwide, backed by Atalaya, cut eight positions, including two top newsroom managers. In November 2011 Atalaya ousted Kontilai and installed Ray, a veteran media exec who built cable producer Raycom Sports.

Since then, NBR has saved on rent in New York by moving its bureau into the offices of TheStreet Inc., a financial news website. And Ray began overseeing monetization of the show’s most valuable asset, the 9,000-episode archive that spans the past three decades. Some 3,500 shows have been digitized and are available for purchase on NuRayPictures.com, a division of Ray’s Nuray Media. “It’s a nice little side business” for program revenue, Ray said.

Ray said NBR is close to finalizing an agreement with a sales and marketing company to assist with underwriting.

This article was published in Current Dec. 17.

  • quasarnine

    And viewers can feel the tumult of the past two years — absolutely brutal. Expect Susie Gharib to be running the entire show by herself before long. NBR was a beloved and trusted brand (aka: If it isn’t broken, don’t mess with it). Cringing, I have to change the channel before Friday’s end-of-show fixture.

  • quasarnine

    Should have placed a bet on my comment below … now, only 16 days later, the entire staff of Nightly Business Report — except Susie Gharib (on contract through 2013, reports say) have been let go. Gharib is back on CNBC, the new owners of NBR.
    Anyone can see that the real story is NOT being told. NBR had a sustainable model for decades, so that alibi, on the presenting station’s part (PBS Miami), is a crock. The presenting station sold the show to an evidently sketchy character with a checkered past: Mykalai Kontilai (real name: Michael Contile). And Kontilai (Contile) was backed by his pals at Atilaya Capital … a PBS show about business and finance bankrolled by a private equity company via Kontilai/Contile; now there’s a clean and correct business model.
    The people at PBS — and Nightly Business Report — who sold the former darling, NBR, to “Kontilai” need to be investigated. They did not do their obvious due diligence on Kontilai (Contile) — or they were in on the take. Tons of probable conflict of interest here.
    For the sake of paying viewer-members and public faith and trust … the fully disclosed story about the very uncreative destruction of NBR needs to come out of public broadcasting’s dark and dingy closet, pronto.

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