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Mary G. Berner Named Cumulus CEO Amidst Corporate Restructuring

Cumulus Mary Berner Lew Dickey John DickeyCumulus Media has name Mary G. Berner as its new Chief Executive Officer as Lew Dickey moves to Vice Chairman and Director.

Berner, who joined Cumulus’ Board of Directors in May, comes from a print background where she has served as President and Chief Executive Officer ofThe Association of Magazine Media, CEO of Reader’s Digest Association and CEO of Fairchild Publications. Cumulus founder Lew Dickey had signed an extension in April to remain as CEO until 2018 but is now exiting as the company’s stock price currently sits at 68 cents a share.

Also exiting is John Dickey as Executive Vice President where he oversaw programming and operations. Mike McVay will assume John’s duties on an interim basis while remaining as Senior VP/Content & Programming.

Chairman Jeff Marcus and Lew Dickey sent the following memo to staffers:

On behalf of the board of directors, we are pleased to announce that Mary Berner will be joining our company as Cumulus Media’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective October 13, 2015. At that time, Lew Dickey will step down from his current role to become Vice Chairman and will continue to serve as a valued member of our board of directors. Attached, please find the public press release that will be issued momentarily announcing this important transition.

Mary is no stranger to Cumulus. She was elected to our board of directors last May and has impressed the board with her exceptional business judgment and media industry experience, not to mention her keen intelligence and boundless energy. In her role as director, she took on the complex task of leading the Operations Review Task Force. She and her committee did an outstanding job and the results of this review will significantly benefit Cumulus going forward – both operationally, and as we leverage the company’s considerable assets to become a highly competitive next generation multi-platform media company. In an industry experiencing significant change, our future is indeed very exciting.

Most recently, Mary was President and Chief Executive Officer of MPA – The Association of Magazine Media (“MPA”), the industry association for magazine media companies. Prior to that, she served as Chief Executive Officer of Reader’s Digest Association, and, before that, Chief Executive Officer of Fairchild Publications. Over her career, she has successfully created value at some of the best-known consumer and b2b media brands and companies in the world, some of which are mentioned in the attached press release.

Mary is very much looking forward to meeting with and getting to know you over the next few weeks and months. In the meantime, on Tuesday, October 13, Mary will hold an all employee webcast. Details will be provided at a later time. Please be sure to put this special event on your calendar.

We cannot thank you all enough for your continued hard work. We are a strong company with a formidable local and national footprint, which forms a strong foundation for our plans for growth going forward. We know there is much work ahead of us, but we are confident that with the depth and breadth of talent that Lew has assembled in and across Cumulus, working under Mary’s leadership, we can leverage our outstanding assets and capitalize on the industry’s solid fundamentals.

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our new CEO.

And the following is the announcement of Berner’s hiring:

The board of directors of Cumulus Media Inc. [NASDAQ: CMLS] today announced that Mary G. Berner has been named Chief Executive Officer of the company, effective October 13, 2015. Ms. Berner, a seasoned media business operator, joined the Cumulus board this past May. She will succeed Lew Dickey, the company’s founder and CEO, who has decided to serve as Vice Chairman and continue as a director of the company.

Ms. Berner most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of MPA – The Association of Magazine Media (“MPA”), the 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. During the course of her highly successful career, she has led some of the world’s best known brands and content platforms, including: Glamour, TV Guide, W, Women’s Wear Daily, Every Day with Rachael Ray and Allrecipes.com.

Jeffrey Marcus, Chairman of the Board of Cumulus Media, Inc. and a Partner at Crestview Partners, which manages funds that beneficially own approximately 27% of Cumulus’ outstanding stock, said, “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. Not only has she successfully built and transformed some of the best-known consumer and b2b media brands and companies in the world, she has demonstrated an ability to turn around a company’s performance and build value for shareholders.”

“Under Lew Dickey’s leadership, 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,” Mr. Marcus added.

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, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cumulus 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.”

Brief Bio about Mary G. Berner
Ms. Berner, 56, is among the most highly accomplished executives in the media industry. Over more than three decades, she has established a track record of successfully leading media companies to drive financial performance and growth. In recognition of her work, Ms. Berner was named one of the Top Women in Media by Folio magazine in 2014.

Prior to becoming Chief Executive of MPA in 2012, Ms. Berner served as Chief Executive Officer of Reader’s Digest Association and a member of the board from 2007 to 2011, where she developed and executed a successful turnaround strategy, oversaw the restructuring of the company’s acquisition-related debt (after which she and her team presided over the doubling of the company’s stock price) and optimized its brands and assets including through the development of new digital revenue streams. Under her direction, the $2 billion global media and direct marketing company launched 83 websites and 31 mobile apps, and built Allrecipes into the world’s largest food website.

From November 1999 until January 2006, she led Fairchild Publications, Inc., first as President and Chief Executive Officer and then as President of Fairchild and as an officer of Conde Nast, when Fairchild became a division of Conde Nast Publications, Inc. Ms. Berner and her team led the company to unprecedented portfolio and financial growth – from 31 magazines and businesses in 1999 to more than 60 in 2006 – by growing profitability on core and “mature” properties, reorganizing underperforming but well-positioned businesses, creating sustainable line extensions of existing brands, and starting new businesses and magazines. In recognition of her outstanding performance, leadership and innovative excellence, Advertising Age named Ms. Berner “Publishing Executive of the Year” in 2004.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

1 Comment

  1. Profile photo of Dr. Akbar


    BK is the only way out. She’s got the chops to work the deals and make Cumulus relevant. Don’t think the debt holders will allow anyone with the last name of Dickey to be part of a reorganization.

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