A few months ago, when Channel 2 was celebrating his 40th anniversary at the station, sports anchor Ed Kilgore jokingly warned Adam Benigni not be too comfortable in his seat just yet.
Tuesday, Kilgore decided to give up his seat at 6 p.m. to Benigni in a move that surprised his Channel 2 boss.
Kilgore is leaving the NBC affiliate at the end of the May sweeps to work for a company owned by Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.
The timing of the announcement was the only thing that was surprising. There has been speculation that Kilgore – who relinquished the 11 p.m. sports shift to Benigni more than a year and a half ago – was in his final year at the station and that Benigni would then take over the 6 p.m. shift, as well.
Kilgore, 66, surprised Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner on Tuesday by telling him that he had received an offer from Pegula’s East Management and was going to take it now.
Channel 2 said in a news release Wednesday that “it is important to note that Ed’s position will not involve the Buffalo Sabres, so Ed will continue to objectively cover the Buffalo Sabres during the final weeks of his time at Channel 2.”
That conclusion certainly is arguable. Kilgore will still be working for Pegula after he leaves Channel 2, which can be looked at as a conflict of interest. However, there is some precedent for a local sports anchor to stay at the station while reporting on a team owned by his future employer. Channel 4 kept former sports director John Murphy on the air last year after he announced he was leaving to work for the Buffalo Bills.
In a telephone interview, Kilgore dismissed suggestions that his hiring by Pegula will influence what he says about the Sabres.
“I’ve been saying for several months that the Sabres are awful, but they have the greatest owner in professional sports,” Kilgore said. “He will get it figured out, but people need to be patient. The team is not good enough. I’ve been critical and will continue to be.”
Kilgore said that Pegula recently asked him to start working for his company now. “I’ve spent a lot more time talking with Terry than a lot of people in the media over the last couple of years,” Kilgore said. “He watched me when he was a [Sabres] fan.”
Kilgore isn’t sure what his role with Pegula’s company will be. “My job description is still being discussed, but it won’t involve the Sabres,” he said. “I report directly to Terry and Kim [Pegula’s wife]. The HarborCenter [development] will be part of it.”
“It is truly the end of an era for Buffalo broadcasting,” Toellner said in a Channel 2 news release. “Ed is the last of the TV sports pioneers here. He has been a part of and chronicler of huge changes in media and especially pro sports. A couple sentences are woefully inadequate to summarize his contributions to sports fandom in Western New York. We will miss his daily examinations and enthusiasm.”
In a telephone interview, Toellner said that Benigni will add the 6 p.m. shift to his 10 and 11 p.m. duties after Kilgore leaves in May.
Kilgore said he has been at Channel 2 through 20 general managers and seven or eight owners.
Besides anchoring sportscasts, Kilgore was the host of several Bills-related shows and “Bowling for Dollars” and was the host of Sabres games for a decade when they were carried by Channel 2. He is a member of the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame and won a New York State Emmy 20 years ago.
Why, at 66, is Kilgore moving into a new job?
“This will be fun,” he said. “It is hard to say no to Terry. And two years ago, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m not ready to retire yet.”