On November 29, 2017 Cumulus CEO Mary Berner announced radio’s second-biggest company at the time would be filing for bankruptcy. She said, “The debt overhang left by previous years of underperformance remains a significant financial challenge that we must overcome for our operational turnaround to proceed.”
Last week, when Cumulus emerged from bankruptcy, Berner said, “Over the last two years, we have been relentlessly focused on our plans to turn the company around, and the completion of our financial restructuring process is a monumental step forward on our turnaround path. We emerge today as a stronger and more competitive company, with the financial foundation that we need to move forward decisively with the initiatives that will produce the greatest benefits for the company. With this financial restructuring now behind us, we are excited about what we will be able to accomplish with all of our resources and energy fully focused on our operating business.”
The company reduced its debt from $2.34 billion to $1.30 billion.
Now that the Cumulus restructure is in the rear view mirror, Cumulus managers around the country are ready to do their part to rebuild the company. We reached out to several Market Managers and asked them about the bankruptcy and the future of the company.
Sherry Dollar is Cumulus’ Vice President/Market Manager in Charleston, SC. Dollar tells Radio Ink from the beginning the company was transparent, making the bankruptcy a non-factor in day-to-day operations. “Management did an excellent job of making sure we heard the information first and directly from them and the leadership team. There were no surprises and we were in front of the information. Having been in the radio industry for 27 years, I have seen radio transition into big business and experience a lot of change, consolidation, and reorganization. It’s the first time in my career that there were no surprises and the plan that was set forth was executed as it was presented to the markets.”
Dollar says because the company was transparent, it was less intimidating for her team. “As I was updated, I made sure my team was updated. The goal was for them to hear from me first. Morale stayed at an all-time high and whatever resources we needed to get the job done were available. My team knew we had a job to do – and while leadership in the company was keeping their word – it was imperative we kept doing the job and getting ratings and revenue results that would lead the company into greater success once out of the reorganization.”
Chicago Market Manager Marv Nyren also said the direction from the home office was key. “As with any organization that goes through a reorganization process, the Cumulus-Chicago team had to step up it’s game to stay focused on the day-to-day business of creating great on-air and digital content as well as continue to work with our current and potential advertising partners. The amazing thing this staff was able to do was eliminate as much of the outside noise as possible and maintain a “business as usual” attitude. The guidance and leadership we received from our corporate leaders (Mary Berner and Dave Milner for Chicago) allowed us to keep working without distractions, make business-smart decisions, measure our performance on key indicators, and continue to grow our business.
Nashville Market Manager Allison Warren concurs with Nyren and Dollar about how the information was flowing. “Mary and the entire senior leadership team were transparent and informative from Day 1 of the restructuring, which made it easy for the local markets to keep our heads down and focus on delivering quality audio to our listeners and business solutions to our clients. This will only accelerate now that we are out of bankruptcy, as it puts all the noise is behind us…. The team here in Nashville is extremely excited about the future of Cumulus Media.”
New York City Market Manager Chad Lopez tells Radio Ink the vibe at his cluster is high energy with momentum moving in the right direction for expansion and growth. “The New York team operated business as usual, gaining trust and belief from our leadership team with the clear communication that was received. The team was confident in the direction and future of the company. Continued practice of Cumulus FORCE values ensured collaboration to operate at the highest efficiency through the transition. Rather than becoming distracted, we put our best foot forward by creating a brand new event, “NASH FM 94.7 Shindig” live from the Jersey Shore. This first time event brought out 5,000+ people in attendance. As seen in the attached photo, our team was empowered to follow the mission and create new experiences and innovative programs for our advertisers and listeners. The companies motto #wegotthis continues to be our driver.”
Ron Giovanniello is Regional Vice President for Cumulus in Pennsylvania and Market Manager for Harrisburg. “Our emergence from bankruptcy has our team feeling very positive, charged up and optimistic about our future. It has energized our team. We come out of bankruptcy in a much stronger and better financial position, and although it really was business as usual while we were operating in bankruptcy, now having it in our rear view mirror is an additional morale boost for the team and also a positive for the radio industry as a whole. It’s onward and now upward for Cumulus.”
Sherry Dollar said that now that the company is out of Chapter 11 her team is more excited about the future and the opportunities ahead. “Morale is still at an all-time high; we continue to focus on ratings and revenue success and how we can maximize that success. So, you ask how has the bankruptcy impacted us? It didn’t – my team knew the goals and those never changed. How has it changed now that we are out of bankruptcy? We can continue to move forward providing the best content and solutions without a huge amount of debt looming over us. It’s a chance to fully showcase the premium brands we have to the marketplace.”
Nyren said the reorganization was completed faster than “any of us expected.” “Now, we’re off and running faster (and $ lighter) than in many years.”