Lew Dickey To Step Down As Cumulus Chairman

Lew Dickey 2014
AP Photo/Nick Ut

Lew Dickey Jr. photographed in Los Angeles on March 20, 2014. 

The move follows a tumultuous few months for Cumulus, which has seen its stock fall 83.9 percent year to date.

Cumulus announced today that Mary G. Berner has been named Chief Executive Officer of the company, with founder/CEO Lew Dickey moving to vice chairman and continuing as a director of the company.

The move follows a tumultuous few months for Cumulus -- which owns 460 stations in 90 U.S. markets, including Westwood One -- in which the company has seen its stock fall 83.9 percent year to date -- to $0.68, from $4.23. (It peaked at $8.09 in January 2014.) Other broadcast radio companies have also been battered this year -- though not as much as Cumulus. Year-to-date, Emmis Communications shares are down 31.6 percent, Salem Media Group is down 23.4 percent and Entercom Communications has fallen 16.9 percent. News of Dickey's departure left Cumulus shares down 8.5 percent Tuesday. 

A source confirmed to Billboard that Dickey's brother John, evp of content and programming, will leave the company effective immediately.

Berner, who joined the company in May and will become CEO effective October 13, was most recently president and Chief Executive Officer of MPA -- the Association of Magazine Media (“MPA”), an industry association for magazine media companies. From 2007-2011, she was Chief Executive Officer of Reader’s Digest Association and, before that, Chief Executive Officer of Fairchild Publications.

Jeffrey Marcus, the company's chairman of the board, said in a statement: “We are delighted that Mary has agreed to serve as our new CEO. Mary is a proven executive, with over 30 years of experience in media driving results in multi-platform advertising and content driven businesses.

“Under Lew Dickey’s leadership," he continued, "the Cumulus team has built a formidable national and local footprint, becoming the second largest operator of radio stations in the country, with more than 460 stations across 90 markets, approximately 8,500 broadcast radio affiliates and numerous digital channels serving over 225 million listeners nationwide. However, maximizing the value of these assets requires making them work together effectively and efficiently. At a time when the media landscape continues to undergo seismic transformation, Cumulus needs a broad based media operator who can leverage its outstanding resources -- from its core strength in radio to its growing presence in digital, experiential and other emerging platforms -- and capitalize on the industry’s strong fundamentals. The board has had the benefit of seeing Mary in action and is fully confident that she is the right leader for Cumulus."

Ms. Berner said, “I am honored to have been asked to lead Cumulus Media and am eager to work with the board and the company’s talented teams to implement Lew’s vision of building the next generation multi-platform media company. As the director who led the Operations Review Task Force established by the board, I have insight into the issues that Cumulus faces, but I also know the operational leverage that can be generated by first focusing on execution. Radio is a powerful and unique medium -- the number one mass reach medium in the U.S. -- and Cumulus possesses all of the elements to be one of the industry’s winners. I look forward to bringing a renewed focus on operating excellence at all levels and in all functions to help Cumulus realize its potential and generate improved financial performance and increased value for shareholders.”
Lew Dickey said, “When I founded Cumulus in 1997, my goal was to create the nationwide platform we have today, with 460 stations in 90 cities, the industry’s most important network, and unique original content, such as NASH. After serving the company day-to-day for almost 19 years, and the last 16 as CEO, now is right time for me to transition from CEO to Vice Chairman. I look forward to working with my fellow board members to support our new CEO.”