Westwood One surprise firing

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Posted by madcityradio.com on October 20, 2008 at 10:28:22:

Beusse Ousted At Westwood One

After just 10 months on the job, Westwood One president/CEO Tom Beusse was reportedly ousted Friday evening (Oct. 17) and replaced by CFO Roderick M. Sherwood III, who joined the company Sept. 17 from the Gores Group, the Los Angeles-based investment fund that has poured $100 million into the ailing programming distributor since Beusse?s arrival. What has happened to -- if anything -- COO Steven Kalin, is unclear.

The upheaval also includes the arrival of two former Jones MediaAmerica executives to Westwood One's top ranks: Cathy Csukas, who had been SVP/COO and Gary Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld was, until Jones sold out to Dial Global on June 20, CEO of the company which he had helped start 20 years ago. He and Csukas had been negotiating with Dial Global for a better deal that would include them staying on and giving them more control in the new company but the deal fell apart and they walked away, a source familiar with the deal tells R&R. The are expected to share director of sales titles at Westwood One. Susan Love, a former VP of sales at Jones MediaAmerica, is also expected to join Westwood.

For Sherwood, it appears that his own cash investment into WON shares earlier this month has paid off in the way of job insurance, but a similar investment by Beusse has not. On Oct. 2, Beusse picked up 375,000 WON shares at 40 cents each. But Sherwood bought a million shares for 40 cents each that day and went back the next day to grab another 250,000 at the same price. Also on Oct. 2, COO Kalin bought $250,000 shares at 40 cents each.

"The stock share price for Westwood has been in a shambles for three years and it is only getting worse," the R&R source observed. "They brought in non-radio people and are now not getting a larger share of the advertising dollar. They need radio people to run that radio company. They said they were looking for people to 'think outside the box.' Well, that's fine, but first concentrate on the mother ship. Westwood One was a cash cow bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and then you bring in non-radio people in a new, cut-throat environment, the company has no money on the books for 2009," said the source.

He said the addition of Schoenfeld and Csukas to Westwood One would be major benefit in turning around the company. "These are two quality people who are smart and have integrity. They play fair and they play hard and you?ll be lucky to have them on your team."

Still, he said, Westwood One and Citadel, which lost another 16% in value on Friday, trading down four cents at 20 cents a share, are two companies ripe for picking by cash-and-asset-strong operators. "Premiere is very aggressive and it's open season. The Mays [family] now look brilliant. They did what [Emmis'] Jeff Smulyan and [Cumulus'] Lew Dickey could not do ? go private. And now, Westwood and Citadel are in very dangerous territory with their market caps way down."

(Jeffrey Yorke, Radio & Records)

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