Wheatley’s plans for “two pretty milk bars” on the Sunshine Coast

Peter Saxon talks to the comeback king. When at age 16 Paul McCartney wrote the song, ‘When I’m 64,’ he couldn’t have been thinking of Glenn Wheatley. The song, which featured on the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was about someone “wasting away,” in the golden years of their life, pottering in the garden and mending the odd fuse.

“There is no thought of the retirement word in my life,” says Glenn Wheatley, who according to his bio from several sources turned 65 in January, but owns up to 64, “It is thrilling for me to be back again in radio. I’ve got two of the prettiest milk bars on the block. And the good news is I know they won’t be building any more milk bars.”

Wheatley, who was one of the FM pioneers in 1980 when he established Melbourne’s EON FM, hasn’t been making “milkshakes” for an awfully long time. Now, together with venture capitalist firm, Oceania Capital http://www.oceaniacapital.com.au he has been able to resurrect the EON name for the partnership (in which he has a 10% stake) and come up with the readies to buy Sunshine Coast stations Sea FM and Mix FM from SCA.

Although SCA tried every way imaginable to hang onto the stations, they were eventually forced into selling the assets because their signal overlapped the Brisbane market where SCA also owns Triple M and B105. See our earlier story.

In a way, it’s poetic justice for Wheatley who recalls it was a very sad day for him 23 years ago when Austereo bought him out of the Triple M network which he had built up during the Hoyts years. “To be honest I’ve often planned to one day get back into the market but capital cities is a pretty closed shop these days. But I think there’s opportunities in the regional markets and fortunately I’ve been able to get two of the best,” he says.

He won’t be drawn in on exactly what expansion plans are in the pipeline, merely suggesting, “We will be looking at other opportunities as they come up. It’s our intention to bed these two down first.”

Sticking to the mantra, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, Wheatley says, “The stations are performing exceptionally well. We are taking over a very well managed and programmed couple of stations, so from that point of view there will be no wholesale changes at all. It really will be just steady as she goes. We have just got to maintain position and I think it has been a very smooth transition.”

Part of the reported 17.5 million dollar settlement was that EON enter into a content deal with Austereo. Essentially the programs that are on air at the moment will remain intact, says Wheatley, “We have also done an arrangement to stay with their national sales people. So, SC  Austereo I think will be pretty happy with that because it’s revenue for them and it’s continuity for us.”

Nonetheless, Wheatley confides, “There’s a couple of things I want to do in the market place. It’s part of my DNA to get into marketing promotions and there’s quite a few situations that I want to kind of develop in the market place on the Sunshine Coast. And we’ve got two of the best vehicles that are tracking incredibly well that will help me  build and create…maybe events…maybe situations that I’ve got a good position to bring to the Sunshine Coast.”

Wheatley comes full circle

Like many of his entrepreneur contemporaries such as Harry M. Miller and Kevin Jacobsen, Glenn Wheatley has known both boom and bust. His lowest point was a 15 month stint in jail in 2007 for tax fraud.

No sooner was he out of jail than he started up another grand venture, an online music service called Stripe. Like many Australian ventures in the online radio space it was a great idea that was just a little too much ahead of its time to pay off. 

Now, of course, streaming is the big new thing. Says Wheatley, “I look at Songl, which is a combination of Sony and Universal, who five years ago I was battling to get licenses from and trying to convince them of the  merit of streaming music. It wasn’t easy, but I like to think I almost wrote the rules 5 years ago.

I mean, the hours and weeks that I spent with the Universals and Sonys of this world negotiating license agreements to use their product so that I could stream it… we almost set the model. I have to say. If we could have held on, it might have been a different story, but we couldn’t. 

But I’ve got a second bite of the cherry now with radio which has always been a passion of mine.” And with that, Glenn Wheatley is back in business, making milkshakes – When He’s 64.