Berner: We Have A Lot Of Work To Do


Cumulus CEO Mary Berner has now been on the job for five months and she put her cards on the table yesterday, laying out her entire plan to turn around the company. Berner’s had a chance to look under the hood in more detail and, as they say, the baby is ugly. However, Berner says given time, Cumulus has the assets to be one of the winners in the radio industry. Thursday afternoon, she detailed operational and cultural changes she hopes will steady the Cumulus ship. The big question is does she have enough time to execute her plan.

Berner is attempting to change the operational structure by allowing more local decision-making, rather than pushing decisions down from corporate. That was a big complaint about the previous administration. Her battle plan involves: focus, responsibility, collaboration, and empowerment. And she’s trying to create an atmosphere where good employees want to stay with the company and create a culture where talented people want to come to work for the company. Berner says the previous culture was toxic with muddled thinking.

Can the company increase ratings in its largest markets and turn this declining revenue trend around in time? Not only was 2015 an awful year for revenue, Q1 2016 is pacing down in the single digits. Even Treasurer J.P. Hannan said Thursday the company has cut close to the bone and Berner admitted there are no more non-core assets to sell off.

Berner said the challenges Cumulus faces with the balance sheet are significant. “We are reviewing all available options to maximize value for the company that give us the time and operational runway needed to turn around the business. We will continue to explore opportunistic debt-reduction strategies. We have begun to implement a strategy that we believe will lead to sustainable success. The challenges are significant but fixable given time.”

Cumulus has $31.7 million cash in the bank. The company posted an annual net loss of $546.5 million in 2015, $4.6 million in Q4 of 2015. The stock is in a 180-day de-listing grace period, for being below $1.00, which expires on May 2. Cumulus has a total of $2.4 billion in debt. $1.84 billion outstanding on senior-secured term loans and $610 million of unsecured notes outstanding due in May of 2019.

Is there enough time?


  1. I don’t know much about the broadcasting side, but I think Mary’s continuation of the Nash Icon and Nash Next record labels is wise. Just as Netflix now creates its own content, radio is finally creating its own. Could be a game changer…and I predict Clear Channel follows suit instead of fighting the Cumulus acts.

  2. Does ‘Frisco John” speak for many?
    Are the recent Cumulus machinations mostly about ‘optics”?
    Has anyone delved into how, specifically, to improve the products and services of the company?
    Are not most of radio-in-general’s efforts about better “telling the story” – story? The story, by the way, that is mostly about the mediums penetration?
    Are parachutes being brought out and checked in the shadows for proper packing?
    Is the morale of staff being considered as an extremely important factor?
    Am I not simply repeating the obvious – making the (above) questions rhetorical?

  3. If this is the “new” culture. we are so F*CKED! SVP actually said “Yea, but it will look good for Mary” when defending a decision to spend a ton of money on a worthless plan, that has failed us in the past. Nothing has changed. Programming exec is still a snake, Ideas are still out of the 1970’s, still being told that everything sounds “GREAT”, then get an email when you have a down trend “What is going on there, have you done anything we’ve discussed”…. it’s a complete JOKE! Like me, most of my Cumulus cohorts spend our time trying to GET OUT!

  4. Indeed, mel, I’m a little embarrassed myself. I didn’t vote for him.
    Just like in radio, he duped the credulous and the gullible – those who accepted the ideology.
    I’m sitting on my wallet. But, it won’t make any difference.
    Meanwhile, this thread is about Mary and Cumulus and Radio-in-general. Not about me. Or, it was.

  5. In other news, the American President, a former community organizer, held a state dinner last night for the Canadian Prime Minister, a former substitute high school history teacher.

  6. Think I’ll write a little country song, the title of which will be: “The Uninformed Certainty Of Shelly-Bo-Belly”.
    I have made no claims to being an educated rep. I am a counsellor, coach, programmer and an ad-guy. And yes, I read spawts.
    Do me the courtesy of understanding the distinctions.
    And stop muttering.

  7. Oh Robinson, shut up.

    You’ve never managed anything or sold radio for a living. Your ego run riot confuses your brain into thinking you can comment on subjects on which you have zero experience or knowledge. You are nothing but vocal chords in a glass cage, cranking out spots. We’ve all heard your rambling diatribes for far too long. Get a hobby if you can’t get a life.

  8. Mary arrived as “the real deal”. The issue is: she also has a blind spot. She does not know how radio works. She is an astute businesswoman. Those parts she can figure out on her own.

    Mary, and her cadre of senior management, however, have no idea how The Medium works, or what to do in order to take advantage of its available, but innate capacities.
    If it were otherwise, these articles would not need to be written or considered.

  9. Mary. In only 5 short months you have exceeded my expectations! Mark it folks…1 Year from today when Cumulus has turned the ship you will be saying “Mary is the real deal”!

  10. I feel sorry for Mary . . She is facing the Kobayashi Maru”. The broadcast climate is tough enough when your balance sheet is pristine, let alone when you’ve been handed the reigns a day late and a dollar short. I’ve never worked for Cumulus but have talked to many who have. and the refrain is the same, something Mary eluded to in her comments, ” . . the previous culture was toxic with muddled thinking. . .” Even when the stock was crashing faster than meteorite, what was the position of the disgraced former CEO?? “I’ll be working closely with my fellow board members to support, guide and oversee our new CEO. . .” Oversee the new CEO?? Lew . . SHUT UP! You can’t even oversee your own arrogance!

  11. Everybody wants Cumulus to pull out of its dive because it would be in the industry’s best interests.
    However, up in the Great White North, nobody expects a pack of sled dogs that have been underfed, abused, misused and undertrained to be hooked up with any expectations to win the Iditarod.

    Stations can get along without stellar marketing and promo. What they can’t get along without are massive improvements in programming and ad-production. Without those dynamics being engaged, good fortune will not be a factor in the future. There will, instead, be wreckage out there on the trail. A top musher is required.


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