By Michaela Kron

Few people stay with the same company for 40 years, but Mark Kanov, the general manager of WSTR-FM/Star 94, has achieved precisely that.

The Sandy Springs resident begins retirement July 25 after exactly four decades at the Atlanta radio station.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Kanov said. “It’s been unbelievable to work 40 years with one company.”

Much of the excitement has come from the celebrities who helped the radio station flourish, from Mick Jagger to Madonna and Elton John to Mariah Carey.

“Radio is a fun business,” Kanov said.

He said one of the station’s great success stories is “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest began working part time at Star 94 in 1990 at age 15 and continued throughout high school and his first year of college. Kanov said he and Seacrest remain close friends.

Kanov’s media career began in print after he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in advertising. He moved to Atlanta “to seek fame and fortune” and sold advertising for what is now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a year.

In 1968 he began selling air time at WQXI-FM, now Star 94. He became the local sales manager in 1980, general sales manager in 1985, station manager in 1990, and senior vice president and general manager in 1993.

“Business is a learning process,” Kanov said. “You learn in school certain things, but when you get into business, it’s experience, and it’s kind of learning as you go.”

Radio can be a turbulent business, but Kanov said longevity is common at Star 94. He expressed pride in the loyalty the staff has given the company.

Kanov also is proud of Star 94’s community service. Over the years, the station has raised more than $6 million for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and has participated in other major fundraisers.

“The station gives back to the community,” he said. “We believe in getting involved. What’s good for Atlanta is good for this radio station.”

Kanov and his wife, Sarah, have done their own community service as foster parents for Cradle of Love, a Georgia adoption agency. The organization provides support to birth mothers who place newborns with the agency, and it works to find homes for the babies. The Kanovs have taken care of 23 foster babies.

“It’s just been a joy,” he said. “We’ve kept lasting relationships with some of them.”

Kanov also has a long relationship with Sandy Springs, where he has lived since 1970.

“Sandy Springs has just exploded over the years,” he said. “I think it’s great that Sandy Springs is its own city now. It just seems like the city is running much smoother now than it did before, and I like the improvements that are being made in the Sandy Springs business district.”

As Kanov ends his business career, he plans to visit Star 94 frequently and maintain his close relationships with the staff. In retirement, he hopes to play more golf, travel and visit family, create a presentation to share his knowledge of the radio industry with students, and do more charity work for Children’s Healthcare.

“I’m leaving after 40 years of just fabulous success and a great career,” he said. “It couldn’t have been more enjoyable. There’s not a single day out of those 40 years that I’ve not wanted to come to work.”