As media moguls go, Oakland County resident Kevin Adell, 49, keeps a pretty low profile, although you might bump into him at a classic car show or the annual Concours D’Elegance (a collector, Adell has about 80 vehicles, including the original Batmobile). Press shy, Adell rarely grants interviews, but he reached out to the Jewish News to share what’s new with his business and his exciting plans for the future.
His father and uncles owned an auto company that supplied door guards to the Big Three. Always a gearhead, Adell’s initial career plans were to own a car dealership. “I never planned on getting into broadcasting,” he says.
In 1978, Adell’s parents applied for a license for WADL. A decade later, in 1988, they received it. Kevin got a call from his dad. “I’ll buy you a Corvette if you come and build the station,” he told him.
It was a tempting offer. Adell came home. He was 21. “We borrowed $3 million to build WADL that first year,” he says. “It took 120 days to build. The Home Shopping Club was our first client,”
The station grew. WADL, local channel 38, went from mainly electronic retail shows in its early days to a mainstream broadcast channel that includes shows like: Seinfeld, Law & Order, House of Payne, Raising Hope and also weekly movies from MGM, Sony and Paramount. But Adell wanted more. “People within 200 miles of our tower could get our signal, but with cable, your audience is the world,” he says. He tried six times to build a network: a car channel, a military channel, a Kmart Home Shopping channel … nothing worked,” he says. “Religious programming was my last try.”
At age 32, Adell built the Word Network. He bought a building on the grounds of Channel 7, put an uplink in the ground and then put together programming, including the ministries of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Adell, who had his bar mitzvah at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, can read Hebrew and speaks Yiddish at home, built his network into the largest AfricanAmerican religious network in the world, reaching 3 billion people worldwide. It is streamed live around the world and has apps on all platforms. It is also available in hotels and airlines serving the United States. “We’re like the ESPN of religion,” he says. “We program in several languages and broadcast to the four corners of the Earth.”
TAKING TO THE AIRWAVES As a child, Adell was a HAM radio operator and taught himself Morse code at age 13. “I always wanted a radio station,” he says, “but it wasn’t easy to get one.”
Years ago, he tried to buy 1270 AM, but CBS ended up getting it. He gave up on the idea until recently, when an opportunity came his way last fall to buy AM 910 from Radio Disney, a 100-year-old, 50,000-watt station that specialized in children’s programming. “The station had good bones and broadcasts from Toledo to Mackinac. I decided to buy it,” he says. “
I chose to switch it to an African American talk radio format. There was no competition, really. I got some movers and shakers, and it took about eight weeks to build it up to where it is now,” he adds.
One of those movers and shakers is Detroit News columnist Bankole Thompson. Adell approached Thomspon, who was broadcasting his show Redline on WDET, and asked him to join.
“I looked at the audience demographic and the scope and decided it was something to seriously consider,” Thompson says. “Given this election year — when people need more engaging and insightful dialogue — Redline is strongly positioned to be that medium on 910 AM.” Redline now airs each Friday on 910 AM Superstation from noon2 p.m.
Other voices on 910 AM have been Christine Beattie, Bob Ficano, Vonda Evans and L. Brooks Patterson. “This is what talk radio should be,” Adell says, “aggressive, controversial and engaging. We get 75 calls every half-hour. The station airs talk from 5 a.m.-midnight. Music is aired from midnight to 5 a.m.”
WHAT’S NEXT: THE WATER FACTORY Adell owns 25 acres at Grand River and Novi roads in Novi, where his dad and uncles used to run their manufacturing plant. The property includes a water tower that displays his name. Soon, it will become a three-story, indoor-outdoor waterpark and hotel called the Water Factory.
“The mayor, city manager and city council are all behind the project, which is in the beginning phase right now,” Adell says. “Because the property once housed a factory, we’re going to keep that theme. We will have exposed ductwork, a concrete floor and a glass façade that will be visible from the freeway.”
Adell is working on the financing for the project, including putting together a Real Estate Investment Trust. He is working with the city on bonds for the necessary infrastructure. “The water tower can produce 200,000 gallons a minute, so we’re all set with that,” he quips.
Once completed, Adell envisions the Water Factory becoming a destination resort for people living in the tri-county area. “There won’t be a need to drive up north or to Toledo to take your kids to a world-class waterpark,” he adds.
Adell, who is married to former TV news reporter Joelle Lukasiewicz, and has a daughter, Savonna, says he feels privileged to own his properties and provide programming worldwide. “It’s an honor, and I never take it for granted,” he says.
Jackie Headapohl | Managing Editor