Cumulus Fires Top Boss at WPRO, LITE 105 and HOT 106

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

 

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For the second time in just over a year, Cumulus, the mega-media company that is trying to stave off bankruptcy, fired the top boss in Rhode Island. GoLocal has learned that John Sutherland, Vice President/Market Manager has been let go just a year after his predecessor was fired. 

Barbara Haynes was dismissed in May of 2015 after more than a decade leading the radio group that includes WPRO AM, WPRO FM, HOT 106, Lite 105 and AM790.

 

 

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Buddy Cianci

More and More Changes

The once stable radio group that commands approximately 50 percent of an ever-shrinking local radio market, has seen a dramatic number of high profile shake-ups.

Beside two changes in a year at the helm, the group let sales leader Joe Lembo leave over the past summer. Young talent like Kim Kalunian left for WPRI-12 and most damaging was the death of former Providence Mayor and afternoon drive host Buddy Cianci.

The loss of Cianci caused a reshuffling of talk show line-up on WPRO-AM -- one that has seen a significant loss of advertising revenue for the once highly profitable talk format station and a hit to ratings.

 

Financial Distress

According to The Street in a February 2016 article, “Cumulus touts about $2.5 billion in total debt through a combination of $1.9 billion worth of leveraged loans and $600 million in high-yield bonds, both rated several notches below investment grade by both Moody's and Standard and Poor’s.”

And GoLocal reported in December 2015, “At Cumulus, new CEO Mary Berner has done nothing new except hire another person from outside the industry…They want to go bankrupt and her experience taking Readers Digest into Chapter 11 is her qualification to be CEO,” said Jerry Del Colliano, Publisher, Inside Music Media.

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John Sutherland, only one-year in the job

Prior to coming to Providence, Sutherland worked in the Worcester and San Jose/San Francisco markets in radio. 

Cumulus stock is trading at close on Tuesday at $0.34 a share, down from two years earlier when the stock traded at $6.60 a share.

 

Related Slideshow: Infamous Talk Radio Controversies

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Arbitron Ratings Scandal

In 2008, radio host John DePetro found himself in the midst of a ratings controversy.  The Boston Herald reported,

The briefly stellar ratings of controversy-dogged-talkmeister John DePetro’s Providence radio show tanked yesterday after a whiff of scandal forced Arbitron to reissue its spring survey of listener-dial habits.

In the 6 to 10 a.m. weekday slot occupied by the self-proclaimed “Independent Man” on WPRO-AM (630), “the reissue ranked WPRO at number nine” among valued 25- to 54-year-old listeners, “down from the number four rank in the original release,” program manager Paul Giammarco and station market manager Barbara Haynes announced in a joint statement.

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Candidate Name-Calling

DePetro was fired from Boston radio station WRKO in 2006 for calling then-gubernatorial Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross a "fat lesbian." 

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Office Scuffle

The Providence Journal's Mike Stanton reported on an altercation in 2009 between DePetro and radio host Ron St. Pierre.

DePetro said he was hit -- and scratched -- in the eye with a balled up paper with a staple thrown at him by St. Pierre.  

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Buddy's Return - to Radio

 

After five years in prison for racketeering conspiracy from 2002 to 2007, former Mayor of Providence Buddy Cianci returned to the public eye with a radio show on WPRO.  

While controversial, Cianci's continued popularity has people wondering if Buddy might just make another run for Mayor in 2014.  

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Chafee's Talk Radio Ban

Upon taking office in 2011, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee announced that he would not appear on talk radio shows and barred state employees in agencies and departments that report to him from doing the same during work hours.  

Governor Chafee is among the elected officials who have signed the "For Our Daughters" pledge.  

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Dennis and Callahan

WEEI sports radio hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were suspended in 2003 when they referred to an escaped gorilla as a "Metco gorilla" waiting for a bus to Lexington -- with Metco being bus program that buses inner-city students to suburban schools.

Boston's http://www.wcvb.com/Radio-Station-Gorilla-Remarks-Spur-Advertiser-Concerns/-/9849586/11281756/-/5lg3o9z/-/index.html#ixzz2nbPAwzd2" target="_blank">WCVB reported that advertisers Dunkin' Donuts and Blue Cross pulled back station support in light of the incident.  

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Severin Suspended

WTKK's Jay Severin was fired for making comments about sleeping with female employees over the years.  

Radio Ink reported on Greater Media's reaction to the incident.  

"Greater Media today ended its relationship with Jay Severin. Our company has always encouraged a free and open dialogue on a variety of issues and topics, and we will continue to be guided by that principle. But we also demand that our on-air talent maintain an appropriate level of civility, and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large.

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Imus' Racial Remarks

in 2007, nationally syndicated talk show host Don Imus called Rutgers women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos."  Imus was suspended -- then fired -- by CBS Radio.  

Five years later, Imus was back on the national radio circuit, as reported by New Jersey.com

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Rush Limbaugh

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is no stranger to controversy; his latest remarks prompted the Democratic National Committee to call on Republican leaders to boycott the Daily Caller, which defended Limbaugh's remarks in an article entitled, "Liberals want to stop men from checking out women." 

 
 

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