Tony Brandon, who has headed Baltimore public radio station WYPR for 16 years, plans to retire at the end of June, the station announced Thursday.
Brandon, WYPR’s president and general manager, is credited with helping drive growth of the National Public Radio affiliate to more than 250,000 listeners weekly.
“I do think it’s time for somebody else to take over and maybe bring new ideas to the station and try some things I haven’t tried,” said Brandon, 71.
He plans to remain involved in radio as chairman and vice president of American General Media, a licensee of 46 radio stations in the southwest that was founded by Brandon’s father, Lawrence Brandon, in 1970. Brandon will run it with his brother, Rogers Brandon, who is president.
Brandon was a leader of a group of eight community members who acquired what was then WJHU, from Johns Hopkins University in 2002. It went on the air Feb. 1, 2002, as WYPR — the call letters standing for “your public radio.”
Brandon said he saw potential in the station that at the time employed 14 people and had $1.7 million in revenue, with a $250,000 annual deficit. The station has grown to more than 42 employees and a $6.4 million operating budget.
Acquisition debt of $7 million has been paid down to less than $1.9 million, Brandon said.
“This has been a great privilege working with some of the most talented journalists in this area, and the staff here has been amazing to work with,” he said. “It takes a team to make a radio station like this.”
The station’s board of directors has hired Stanton Chase Baltimore to lead a national search for a new general manager and plans to seek input from staff and stakeholders.
Darcy Carroll, board chair, said WYPR plans no change in direction or mission.
The listener-supported station on North Charles Street and at 88.1 FM on the radio dial focuses on local programming, including news, public affairs and cultural programs. The independent station also airs national and international features.
Brandon said he was especially proud of building a local news department that did not exist previously, and a digital platform that includes more than a dozen regular podcasts. The station serves the Baltimore metro area and its owners also expanded the signal by acquiring WYPO in Ocean City and WYPF in Frederick.
Brandon “helped solidify the reputation of WYPR as a trusted source of information for the community we serve and expertly guided the station to significant growth during his tenure,” Carroll said in an announcement.
“All of us at NPR are saddened to learn of Tony’s retirement,” Jarl Mohn, president and CEO of NPR, said in an announcement. “He has done a superb job of providing high quality, fact-based and engaging journalism for Baltimore. Over the years, he has built WYPR into a trusted source of information and an important voice in the community.”