STORZ, TODD (1924-1964)
Omaha, Nebraska, radio broadcasting entrepreneur Robert Todd Storz was described in 1956 by Time magazine as the "fastest rising figure in U.S. radio." His Mid-Continent Broadcasting Company and its daytime-only kowh ruled Omaha's airwaves from 1950 through 1957 with controversial outside stunts and station promotions, listen-to-win contests and games, popular music, razzle-dazzle announcers, and sensational sounding news broadcasts that offered listeners a weekly cash award for the best news tip. Under Storz's direct supervision the company spawned similar independent programming success stories at six other radio stations acquired by the company from 1953 through 1960, creating one of the most innovative and profitable privately held nonnetwork radio groups in the history of post-World War II broadcasting.
Born in Omaha to Robert Herman Storz and Mildred Todd Storz on May 8, 1924, Storz developed an early interest in radio and built a cigar-box crystal set at the age of eight. During his early teens he was a five-meter "bootlegger," transmitting without a license, and by his sixteenth year he was a licensed amateur radio operator. He attended Omaha public schools, leaving that city's Central High School in 1940 to complete his secondary education at the prestigious Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. After graduating in 1942 he attended the University of Nebraska for one year. He enlisted in the United States Army and passed specialized Signal Corps cryptography exams with the highest score, becoming the youngest warrant officer in the service.
Following World War II Storz took a twelve-week nbc-sponsored course in radio at Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, and worked at several radio stations as an announcer, salesman, and copywriter. In 1947 he was employed at KBON in Omaha, hosting its 1490 Swing Club program. In 1949 Todd and his father purchased KOWH from the Omaha World Herald for $75,000. Todd, age twentyfive, became KOWH general manager and vice president of the new Mid-Continent Broadcasting Company. His father, fifty, was the company's president. By 1951 KOWH had become the nation's top-rated independent radio station.
In 1957 the company changed its name to the Storz Broadcasting Company and sold KOWH to William F. Buckley Jr.'s National Weekly, Inc., for $822,500, an astonishing price for a 500-watt daytime-only radio station. Meanwhile, Storz had acquired am radio stations in New Orleans, Kansas City, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Miami, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis. Storz was president of the highly profitable company; his father was its chairman of the board. Storz originated the idea of Top 40 music programming with the purchase in 1953 of WTIX in New Orleans.
In 1957 declining network radio revenues prompted ABC to recruit several Storz top management figures. As consultants, they recommended new programming at ABC Radio, including network news and the Top 40 music format at several of its owned and operated radio stations and many of its affiliates.
On April 13, 1964, Todd Storz died from an apparent stroke at his home in Miami Beach, Florida. In 1966 Robert H. Storz returned the company's home office operations to Omaha from Miami Beach. Beginning in 1978 the Storz stations were sold separately, the last in 1985, bringing to a close an important chapter in American radio history.
Richard W. Fatherley Kansas City, Kansas