In April 2010, Lew Dickey, the co-founder, chief executive officer, and president of Cumulus Media, was settling into his first class seat on a Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to New York when he noticed a familiar face. The man sitting next to him was Mike Huckabee, the former two-term governor of Arkansas and 2008 Republican presidential candidate. Dickey and Huckabee had never met, but they bonded quickly over childhoods spent in radio.
Dickey’s father owned WOHO, an adult contemporary station in Toledo. Huckabee had been on the air at KXAR, a 1,000-watt station in Hope, Ark., since he was 14, playing the roles of disc jockey, news reader, and even play-by-play announcer for the local high school football team. He later worked his way through Ouachita Baptist University by DJing at local radio station KVRC. “I would put on the record, introduce Creedence Clearwater Revival or whoever it was, and then read my religious textbooks,” he told Dickey.