Passing The Baton

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(By Deborah Parenti) There’s nothing quite like going out on a high note, and Entercom’s Steve Fisher, who retires this month, has certainly achieved that. As EVP/CFO, he’s helped grow a well-respected company with a solid financial footing for almost 20 years. The recent addition of the CBS Radio properties can only enhance that position, something Steve can take pride in as he leaves.

Radio Ink: What initially attracted you to the financial side of the broadcast business?
Fisher:
I think of myself as a broadcaster first, who gravitated toward the financial side of the business as a way of driving value. This side provided a career path that allowed me to use my tools and interests, yet still be involved in the fun aspects of broadcasting. It is interesting to look back on my career and see the way the financial side has allowed me to drive change to the operational business model — but still let me be involved in sales and programming, which I truly love.

Radio Ink: The Entercom-CBS transaction was obviously a huge and complex deal. What was it like as a CFO in that transaction? Can you share any advice on the fine art of making such a deal happen?
Fisher: While certainly the CBS transaction was the largest of the many deals I have worked on, like all deals, it took on a rhythm of its own. This one made sense from the beginning and actually, in the final stages, went fairly quickly. Entercom is blessed with a great legal and financial team, so whether we are working on a large or a small transaction, we interact and complement each other in a manner that makes the process productive and gratifying.

What made the CBS transaction especially exciting was the vision of creating a leading radio platform with a strong balance sheet that sets the stage for an exciting future, given the brands, content, sales opportunities, and breadth of coverage of major markets.

I’m not sure deals are a “fine art.” Maybe more like a messy abstractionist painting! My advice on working on any deal is to stay focused on the issues that matter. Work backwards from deadlines. Make sure you have appropriate resources.

Radio Ink: What are the most satisfying aspects of being an NAB Board member?
Fisher: The most satisfying aspect has been the insight into the tremendous team at the NAB who represent our issues and assist with the complex issues coming our way. When I think of the regulatory challenges and opportunities in the year ahead — and envision those that will follow — I take comfort in knowing the NAB “has our back” and is thinking ahead. I have also appreciated the interaction and ability to learn from my industry peers who are also on the board.

Radio Ink: What was the biggest accomplishment while you were part of the NAB board?
Fisher: Rather than single out any one item, my thought goes to the continuation of telling our story to the governmental and regulatory bodies that have sway over our future.

Radio Ink: What do you see as radio’s biggest challenges over the next five years?
Fisher: My first thought is that it may be challenges we don’t yet know or realize. But to get specific, I’d love to see radio’s ROI story resonate more with Madison Avenue.

We have great reach, an amazing story of results, and an extremely attractive value proposition that sometimes gets lost among the “shiny new objects.”

Music licensing will continue to be a challenging issue. I’d love to see radio enabled in all mobile phones. There is timely speculation about what the new administration and FCC might mean for regulatory relief.

Radio Ink: Why are you retiring now?
Fisher: 
Quite simply, it was time. The timing of my decision to step down had been set long before the CBS deal came together. Now, in hindsight, I can say it is actually the perfect time to pass the baton as Entercom, and soon Entercom plus CBS, move into the exciting next phase of their growth.

Me? I couldn’t be more grateful for all the opportunities the industry, and Entercom in particular, has offered to me. The gratification of what we do for a living — and for fun — every day. The people I have had the chance to work for and work with. So I leave with a smile on my face and look forward to the next phase of my life, which may be less about building a company than fulfilling personal challenges and goals.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]

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