Suleman's Destruction Of Talk Radio Fuels Calls For Termination
CEO Not Held Accountable For Citadel-ABC Radio Collapse
As another wave of destructive layoffs hit Citadel- ABC Radio today, the man responsible for his company's spectacular collapse still refuses to take responsibility for the extraordinary damage he has done to the nation's largest and most successful talk radio stations.
Between burned investors, compromised radio stations and a talk format now in poor shape going into a crucial election season, failed CEO Farid Suleman is busy making enemies from coast- to- coast.
Today, calls for Suleman to be fired have grown, including USC Professor/ industry analyst Jerry Del Colliano. At Inside Music Media, Del Colliano points to Suleman's huge salary at the very time he is wiping out programming schedules across the country:
He has earned the right to get a pink slip for many, many reasons. Among them:
1. Presiding over a company that is virtually worthless to its shareholders. Over $10 a share a year or so ago and $1.10 a share when it closed Friday. I mention shareholder value first since it is the Holy Grail of consolidators. The shareholders should call for his head based on that alone. But, there's more.
2. Farid has presided over the destruction of the once proud and profitable ABC radio stations and network. He lusted after them like a true dealmaker with eyes larger than his stomach, but in the end his actions or inactions ran ABC into the ground, too. Cutbacks may be the magic of bean counters but they are not what success is made of for operators. John Hare was pretty good in comparison, wasn't he -- when we look in retrospect.
3. Gutting the treasury of a troubled company. My old friend and RBR publisher Jim Carnegie reminds me that Farid was compensated to the tune of $17 million last year -- excessive even if he succeeded and that the company has taken care of his capital gains situation. If you do that for a failed CEO, what do you do for one who delivers, say -- a $2.00 share price for a radio stock? $34 million -- Double! Insane.
4. Farid's first response to each financial crisis at Citadel is to fire the staff. The Chicago Tribune reported what staffers were calling a "bloodbath" at Citadel--owned WLS in Chicago. But wait, The Trib got it wrong. It reported Citadel, "fired a number of staffers, including several news veterans, as owner Citadel Broadcasting slashed costs nationwide during one of the biggest advertising downturns in radio history." What? No the media is drinking the Kool-Aid of these desperate consolidators.
What about the several year trend downward in share price -- before the economic downturn? There are cutbacks at other ABC stations. Washington. Atlanta. New York. The "leader" is assuring his shareholders that he's in charge. Here's how he's quoted by Frank Saxe in Inside Radio, "Suleman says 'The time for talk is over and it is now time for the walk.' Suleman says the biggest "disappointment" has been the big markets where national revenues have been "a complete disaster." It's those former ABC Radio stations which Citadel bought from Disney last year." Farid has had plenty of time to walk the walk. Instead he stumbles.
5. A total lack of understanding on how to create and market content. That's why he's shown little sensitivity to the fact that Paul Harvey is his biggest star at 90 years old. The bean counter will try to slash that expense when his contract is up soon. Unable to grasp the business he is in -- programming and marketing content -- Farid does the only thing he knows -- playing with his -- numbers.
Of course, he forgot point number six: Suleman wasted most of 2007 courting crusty has- been Don Imus with a huge pay package rather than saving his company from ruin.
With the company reporting massive losses from declining sales, poor programming choices and valuation issues, the damage seems too severe to repair even with the most talented future management.
Meanwhile, the already- staggering body count grew today, as additional hosts, producers and other staffers were sacked in additional cities, now including San Francisco and Dallas- Fort Worth.
Especially shocking: highly- rated KSFO morning host Melanie Morgan was among those let go. Co- host Lee Rodgers, who had already cut his schedule to just four shows per week, will now be expected to carry on alone. This has sent shockwaves through Bay Area media circles, where even longtime entertainment reporter Brad Kava, a leftist, has expressed his alarm.
Elsewhere, we are still awaiting word on additional sackings expected in various cities.
For conservative talk radio, this represents a crisis, as some of the biggest syndicated names in the business will soon be affected by Citadel's failure. While many conservative bloggers still seem unaware of the issue, a few liberals have attempted to assign partisan motives to the meltdown.
The problem with that approach is that this has occurred despite the success of right- leaning talk, due to entirely epic managerial incompetence. And for those inclined to play that game, just take a look at Suleman's liberal political contribution history.
In addition, Suleman was behind the baffling elimination of Rush Limbaugh from his longtime home in Providence, WPRO-AM.
But this isn't just about the wipeout of major- market conservative talk radio during an election year: many of those who have seen their careers ruined are reporters, producers and support personnel. Many are hard- core liberals.
There are bad managers and there is Farid Suleman, in a league of his own. We can either keep him fat and happy in his Greenwich estate or save this popular and productive medium from a complete wipeout.
Which do you choose?
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