Craig Carton is expected to sign a contract shortly that will bring him back to WFAN in afternoon drive time, The Post has learned.
At the moment, Evan Roberts is the leading candidate to be Carton’s partner, according to sources. He is the only internal candidate FAN is considering. Carton and WFAN’s hope is to begin his new program next month, according to sources.
The Carton move will result in the retirement of Joe Benigno as a full-time host. Benigno has talked about retiring for years so it is not being forced upon him.
Carton, 51, has not been on FAN in more than three years after being arrested and convicted of a fraud scheme in which he misallocated loans to repay gambling debts. He spent a year in prison and owes his debtors nearly $5 million.
FAN is still searching for Carton’s partner for his afternoon ratings battle with current sports radio leader, ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show.”
Roberts is currently Benigno’s partner in afternoons. The two replaced Mike Francesa.
FAN’s first option was to recreate the Carton-ex-athlete dynamic that he had with Boomer Esiason. FAN executives looked into former Jet Willie Colon. Besides a relaxed demeanor and his playing experience, Colon is a big Yankees fan. FAN executives always emphasize baseball in their shows. Colon, though, is unavailable as he is in the midst of a multi-year deal with Barstool Sports.
FAN discussed Carton’s good friend, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, but it is not going to happen for a variety of reasons, one of which is it would be too political of a choice. It is unclear if Christie would really be interested, though he did guest host on FAN in the past.
FAN wants to diversify its mostly white male roster, according to sources, and has plans to address the situation over time. Kazeem Famuyide is on their radar for future shows as someone with potential. Famuyide, 33, has done work for many outlets, including SNY, Slam and The Post.
As for Carton, one source said he will sign his contract in the “next 24 hours,” which will begin the next moves. The 67-year-old Benigno, who has had a long successful career from caller to afternoon drive, has spoken repeatedly about retiring. While he wouldn’t be on daily, he could still do spot shows.
Roberts, 37, will continue on the daily lineup, even if it were not as Carton’s partner in afternoons. If FAN decides a different route in drive time, Roberts will return to middays, according to sources. He very well could replace Marc Malusis and partner with Maggie Gray. Gray’s future is not set. FAN, according to sources, wants her to return, but no deal has been agreed to as of yet. Her contract is up at the end of the year.
In the mornings, FAN has not considered putting Carton back with Esiason. Esiason and Carton’s replacement, Gregg Giannotti, have continued to be atop the ratings and just extended their CBS Sports Network TV deal.
In the afternoons, Carton and FAN know they will have to manage Carton’s admitted gambling addiction against the constant advertisements for betting sites. But whomever FAN chooses as his partner, the program will revolve around Carton. After a year in prison and three years, Carton is back.
This has all has been anticipated since Chris Oliviero returned to oversee FAN in May. Sources said that Oliviero, before taking the job, asked Entercom executives if he could bring back Carton, if it made sense.
Carton and Oliviero have a long history together, dating back to Oliviero being Carton’s producer two decades ago. Oliviero and FAN VP Mark Chernoff teamed Carton with Esiason to replace Don Imus.
Now, they have signed off on Carton’s comeback.
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