President of ad sales David Lawenda is leaving Univision in early September, a memo from Univision CEO Randy Falco to staffers said on Thursday morning. "David Lawenda informed me that he will be leaving the company during the week of Labor Day," Falco's email said.
Lawenda leaves the Spanish-language broadcaster, far and away the market share leader in U.S. Hispanic television, at a crucial time. The company's upfront presentation this year was a blowout far beyond any years past, and it has pushed to increase CPMs closer to the rates paid to English-language broadcasters.
Univision appeared to be off to a good start in May. Starcom USA and sister agency Tapestry (which focuses on multicultural sales) inked the first deal of the season with Univision, bringing in dollars from Burger King, Mars/Wrigley and Kellogg. The network is also doing huge ratings numbers. It regularly ranks above at least one of the Big Four broadcasters and recently logged a No. 1 spot for the week.
No reason was given for Lawenda's departure besides a need "to focus on the next phase of his career," but Falco said that Lawenda's decision had been made "a few months ago." Univision's upfront commitments will start to come due in the fall, and Falco promised staffers he'd have a replacement for Lawenda by that time.
Univision's quarterly earnings report earlier this month included some troubling advertising figures. Ad revenue for the half was off by $26 million for the six months ending June 30. While there's more interest in the Hispanic market, that interest also means stiffer competition from companies looking to cash in on what appears to be a huge, underserved population.
Falco promised staff that a replacement for Lawenda would be found as speedily as possible.
** UPDATE: Lawenda's replacement has been named. Keith Turner, most recently svp of media sales and sponsorship at the NFL as of 2009, will take over the New York-based position, reporting to Falco. Turner and his new boss have history. Before his time at the NFL (where he helped to negotiate the return of advertiser Anheuser-Busch), he was at NBC for 22 years where he overlapped with Falco in the Sports division.
“Keith has a sterling reputation in the media industry for being an effective and creative sales and marketing executive," said Falco in a statement emailed to Adweek, "and having spent many years working closely with him at NBC, I can personally attest to his unique talent.”