Arbitron Reveals Reason for Skarzynski’s Exit

As Arbitron introduced William Kerr, the ratings firm’s new president and CEO during a noon conference call (Jan. 12), the company came clean on why Michael Skarzynski was forced to exit.

News of Skarzynski’s resignation for “violating a company policy” came late Monday Jan. 11. William Kerr, an Arbitron board member since 2007, immediately took over as president and CEO.

During his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Skarzynski testified that he personally participated in a home training visit for a portable people meter panelist. It was Arbitron that notified Chairman Edolphus “Ed” Towns that Skarzynski had not been a part of the visit and asked that the record be corrected.

“Arbitron regrets the statement,” said Sean Creamer, chief financial officer for Arbitron. “We did what we believe was appropriate to do. We brought it to their attention and are working with them to correct the record.”

Now it’s Kerr’s job to take the company forward, a role the former president and CEO of Meredith was happy to embrace. “I’m honored by my appointment. It’s a great privilege and great responsibility,” Kerr said. “I’m assuming my role at an important time in the company’s history.”

Kerr said he would concentrate his initial focus on four key areas. First, leading the organization through the transition and keeping the company focused; driving PPM commercialization and making progress on key performance metrics; working with Arbitron’s executive staff on refining and delivering on a long range strategy to “strengthen the core radio service and leverage the assets of PPM into new lines of business”; and evolve a longterm management structure.

“I don’t see the need for a dramatic change in strategy,” Kerr said.

Kerr has his work cut out for him. Concurrent with announcing Skarzynski’s resignation, the company revealed that it had been denied Media Rating Council accreditation in 18 of the nation’s largest markets. Only one, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. was granted accreditation, giving Arbitron a total of only three accredited PPM markets out of total of 33 that are commercialized.

The new president and CEO will also have to continue the dialog with PPM’s most vocal and active critics and any fallout, if any, from Skarzynski’s congressional testimony.

While it copes with the controversy surrounding PPM, Arbitron’s growth beyond radio relies on leveraging its technology. “In my mind, this becomes a critical building block for the future,” Kerr said.