Todd "MJ" Schnitt, the radio personality who has led the morning show at WFLZ-FM (93.3) for nearly 20 years, announced on Twitter he is leaving his MJ Morning Show on Feb. 17.
His message read: "Let me be first to officially announce that Feb. 17 will be the last broadcast of 'The MJ Morning Show.' 18 great years!"
The announcement capped a long struggle with area rivals, including shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, and months of industry rumors that he might soon leave Clear Channel Radio, which owns WFLZ.
In another Twitter post, Schnitt said the change would allow him to focus on The Schnitt Show, a newsy talk program he hosts at 3 p.m. weekdays on another Clear Channel station, WFLA-AM (970). He told WFLA listeners Thursday the show would go on the road visiting affiliates in 2012.
"I can now focus 100% of my energy on the growing national footprint of The Schnitt Show," the message read. "This also lets me spend more time with my family!"
Schnitt did not return phone calls from the Tampa Bay Times. But Sam Nein, Tampa Bay market president for Clear Channel, wrote in an email that Schnitt was planning to discuss the details of his departure on his morning show Monday.
"Out of respect for MJ, his team and his audience we are going to let MJ and his team announce the news and plan in their own way," Nein wrote.
This lack of official comment — ensuring fans tune into Schnitt's show to learn his fate after days of anticipation — also leaves open the question of what will replace his program, now airing from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFLZ.
Keith Lawless, vice president and Tampa market manager at rival Cox Radio, tried not to sound smug while recounting how his company targeted Schnitt directly in July — turning WPOI-FM into Hot 101.5, a station focused on contemporary hits.
"MJ going away would have happened eventually; it happened quicker because Hot's in town," Lawless said, recounting a line they used last year against Schnitt. "He's a 45-year-old guy trying to relate to women 20 years his junior."
Radio experts have said the industry's new ratings system, in which people wear pager-sized devices that sense every radio they encounter in a day, have shown audiences outside talk radio stations want less talk and more music.
In August, the Facebook page for Schnitt's MJ Morning Show filled with fan complaints after the program revealed changes such as playing more music, shortening talk segments and ending the show an hour earlier, at 9 a.m.
The changes de-emphasized Schnitt's presence and angered some longtime fans.
A native of New York City, Schnitt came to Tampa in 1994. He joined B.J. Harris at WFLZ under its irreverent "Power Pig" format, using the name M.J. Kelli on The MJ and BJ Show.
By 2001, Harris was gone, later admitting he had a problem with cocaine that derailed his life and career. Schnitt kept hosting a retitled MJ Morning Show, adding the 3 p.m. Schnitt Show on WFLA the next year.
Schnitt clashed with rival radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, who started a morning show on Cox Radio's WHPT-FM (102.5) in 2008, vowing to unseat his Clear Channel-based rival as the market's top-rated morning show.
Clem's plan worked, though Schnitt sued him that year, accusing his rival of making "highly offensive, insulting or fighting words and defamatory statements" about him and his wife, Michelle.
The lawsuit is ongoing.