Brazil’s SBT snags star of rival Record

Ratinho to raise ruckus for new bosses

RIO DE JANEIRO — Dealing a major blow to its closest rival, Brazilian broadcaster SBT has paid nearly $40 million to snatch the top star from TV Record.

Brazil’s No. 2 TV network, SBT has bagged talkshow phenom Carlos Massa — better known as Ratinho (Little Mouse) — whose show resembles “Jerry Springer” and has ratings of up to 30 points.

Deal comes as SBT suffers continued executive turmoil, with production head Luciano Callegari and exec VP Guilherme Stoliar ankling only three months after owner Silvio Santos brought them in to run the web.

The two execs cited deep disagreements with Santos — including his axing of a newscast co-produced with U.S. cabler CBS TeleNoticias — and the owner’s autocratic leadership style.

This is the second time within a year that Callegari and Stoliar have left; in late 1997, Santos handed the reins to his U.S. aide Rick Medeiros for six months, but he failed to revive SBT’s flagging ratings.

In the latest round of musical chairs, the mercurial Santos has again turned to Medeiros, though he is said to be angling for Eduardo Lafon — the man responsible for Record’s rise from sixth to third place in recent years.

Record denied last week that Lafon will leave.

In a televised press conference, Ratinho confirmed SBT will fork out 43 million reais ($36.7 million) to release him from his contract with Record and pay him a monthly salary of $1 million; deal is for four years.

Ratinho’s SBT show will air for 90 minutes Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 p.m., when it will compete against top net Globo’s prime telenovela.

Ratinho said he was leaving Record because the network, which is owned by a major Protestant church, was censoring his show.

He cited the church’s veto of foul language and interviews with politicians, though the show has nonetheless caused a stir with its sensationlizing of afflictions and violence among Brazil’s poor.

Deal reps sweet revenge for Santos, who last year lost his veteran news anchor Boris Casoy to Record.

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