A couple days after Rob Braun left WKRC-TV in June, a high school friend asked if he'd like to be the corporate spokesman for family-owned Heritage Bank based in Burlington, Ky.
The more he thought about it – and the more he enjoyed spending new-found time on his Northern Kentucky farm – he decided to accept the contract position after conversations with WCPO-TV and WLWT-TV executives.
"It's the absolute best fit for me I've had since Channel 12 was Channel 12," said Braun, 62, referring to WKRC-TV's glory days of big ratings and the city's most veteran reporting staff. "I work for them (Heritage Bank), but I'm not there every day. It's not confining."
After leaving Channel 12 in June after 35 years, Braun talked to managers at Channel 5 and 9.
"I listened to what both stations wanted to talk about. It just didn't feel right. Nothing against Channel 5 or 9, but it just wasn’t right for me. But I wanted to have the conversations," he said.
Braun decided that he'll become a TV spokesman, as his father, TV personality Bob Braun, did for five decades on local television and radio. That's how Rob started in broadcasting, too. He did commercials for Pepsi, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Joseph Toyota and Dalton Georgia Carpet Outlets before going into TV news career.
"I forgot this side of the business is so much fun. It doesn't involve death and destruction," he said.
Braun "has agreed to represent Heritage Bank exclusively," according to the company announcement today. Founded 29 years ago, Heritage Bank has grown to 19 branches in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati. He will attend bank grand openings and other events; be "front and center" in the bank's advertising campaigns; and "lend his expertise in broadcast production storytelling behind the scenes," said the company media release.
"Like Heritage Bank, Rob cares about what unites our region as well as the qualities unique to each community and neighborhood," said Chris Caddell, Heritage Bank chairman, in the company's statement. "He is also a long-time customer. Rob can speak firsthand about our commitment to building prosperity wherever we operate and providing customers with the same caliber of counsel and personal attention we offer family and friends."
Or as Braun put it: "They've financed my business. They've financed my son's business. They're accessible and have all the digital tools, like taking a picture of your check."
Braun confirmed that he left WKRC-TV because of the station's owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which made local TV anchors read a commentary complaining about media companies pushing "their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think" in March 2018. Braun tried to rewrite Sinclair's script in his own words, but it was rejected. After the commentary started airing, Braun told a newsroom meeting that he had received death threats.
"When they made me read that stuff a year ago, that's when I made up my mind (to leave). The station was evolving into something I didn't believe in. I couldn't do it," he told me.
It's no surprise, he said, that veteran reporters Deb Dixon, Joe Webb and Jeff Hirsh left Channel 12 when their contracts expired. Co-anchor Cammy Dierking also has told managers she's leaving when her contract ends in December.
"The job I had was like being the quarterback. It was the best time of my life. But the team was gone, and I was ready to go," Braun said.
"We had a helluva run," he added.
Before his news career, Braun owned a food concession business; ran restaurants in Cincinnati and North Carolina; and dabbled in acting and commercials. He was hired by Channel 12 in 1984 from Knoxville's WBIR-TV, and took over as main co-anchor in 1988 after Nick Clooney left the station. Sinclair Broadcast Group bought the station in 2012.
After announcing his retirement June 17, he posted this explanation on Facebook:
"Ch 12 is NOT forcing me out. In fact they offered me a generous contract. I am choosing to leave. There is no 'real story'… Sometimes in life, you just know, it's time to move on. I don't feel I fit well with the Sinclair News model."
Instead of working 50 hours a week at a TV station, Braun has been working full-time on his Northern Kentucky farm where he raises cattle, soybeans, hay, wheat and corn.
"When I was doing the news, it (farming) was like therapy. It's my passion," he said. "This is the calmest I've been in four years. It just feels so good to be calm."
Braun eventually may pitch other products on TV or radio like his famous father, who died in 1999. But not just anything.
"Before my dad would endorse any product, he had our family test them. Then we'd vote as a family whether we liked it or not," Braun said. "It's kind of bred in me that you've got to believe in the product."