CBS Considering Plan to 'Split Off' Its Radio Division

Leslie Moonves
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Leslie Moonves attends the 2015 CBS Upfront at The Tent at Lincoln Center on May 13, 2015 in New York City. 

In a memo to employees on Wednesday, CBS Radio president Andre Fernandez revealed that CBS Corp. is pursuing a plan to "split CBS Radio off via an IPO." The news came just two weeks after CEO Leslie Moonves announced that CBS was investigating options for its radio group.

Fernandez said the memo came a week after Moonves sat in on his staff meeting to chart a future course for the company's radio business.

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"First, the primary course of action CBS Corporation is pursuing is to split CBS Radio off via an IPO," read the memo obtained by Billboard. "The result of this action is that we would become our own publicly traded company. There are many exciting benefits to a move like this, including the opportunity, down the road, to define our own operating strategy. As a standalone company, we would most likely have a significantly greater focus on investing in ourselves and the future of the business."

A breakaway from the parent corporation could give CBS radio a "decided advantage in the industry" thanks to the strength of its local radio stations and robust financials. "Both factors would play a pivotal role in how we are able to grow value for shareholders and our employees in the short- and long-term," Fernandez wrote. " No one can match the combination of our portfolio of major market stations and first-rate digital assets. While life as an independent company might be different, we would still be a collection of the most iconic brands in all of media."

In a call-to-arms for employees, Fernandez said an IPO could present the "possibility of great professional growth" for the CBS Radio team, whose contributions to the organization would become "even more important as we build the framework for our new company, and chart our pathway to the future… That is a pretty incredible opportunity for those of you who have dedicated your careers to the business, and for the new generation of employees who are helping diversify our portfolio to compete in a digital world," he said.

And while the IPO is an attractive option, Fernandez cautioned that it's not the only possibility in a note that might cause some employees to wring their hands about their future within the company. "Of course, there are also other paths being explored for CBS Radio, including the possibility of becoming part of another company," he said.

The memo, though, ended on an up note, with Fernandez seeking to rally his group to keep their eye on the ball and carry on regardless of which path the division pursues. "What is certain, however, is that the most effective way for all of us to proceed is to continue doing what we do best day in and day out," he wrote. "I trust that all of you will continue doing so as we write the next few chapters of this great organization."

Fernandez ended with a pledge to keep the CBS Radio team members in the loop about future plans, reminding them that they are "valued colleagues" and the basis for any future success. A CBS Radio spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the memo to Billboard.