Updated: Beusse Out at Westwood One; Sherwood Upped to President

Tom Beusse is out at Westwood One, just nine months after he joined the troubled radio network as president and CEO. His last day was Friday, Oct. 17.

By Monday, Westwood’s board of directors named its new executive management team. Rod Sherwood was promoted to president in addition to his responsibilities as chief financial officer.

Westwood also reorganized its management team to create direct leadership for its two core business units, the radio network division and the Metro Networks Traffic division. Gary Schonfeld, the former CEO of MediaAmerica and a former Westwood sales exec, was named president, network division. Steve Kalin, Westwood’s chief operating officer will serve as president, Metro Traffic Division.

“These management changes were made to create clear lines of authority and responsibility to drive performance in each of the network division and Metro Traffic,” said Mark Stone, vice chairman of Westwood One and senior managing director and president, operations for The Gores Group. “We are enthusiastic about the same investment thesis that supported our initial $100 million investment in the company are please to have supported the company financially, strategically and operationally.”

While network radio advertising as a whole has been growing, Westwood One has not. Once considered a giant among radio networks, Westwood One, faced with two years of declining revenue, has fallen on hard times. In August, the stock dropped below $1, falling to pennies soon after and threatening the company’s listing on the new York Stock Exchange. On Friday (Oct. 17), the stock closed at $0.19. Still left to be resolved: refinancing $85 million in debt due early next year.

Beusse’s days may have been numbered since September, when Sherwood, chief financial officer, operations for The Gores Group, Westwood’s major investor, was made chief financial officer of Westwood, replacing Gary Yusko. Along with its $100 million investment in February, The Gores Group, also gained three members on Westwood’s 11-member board of directors.
Sherwood’s own cash investment in WON shares earlier this month may have also paid off in the way of job insurance, unlike Beusse’s. On Oct. 2, Beusse picked up 375,000 WON shares at 40 cents each. Sherwood bought a million shares for 40 cents each that day and went back the next day to grab another 250,000 at the same price. Also on Oct. 2, chief operating officer Steven Kalin bought $250,000 shares at 40 cents each.

A newcomer to the radio business, Beusse came to Westood after serving as president of Time4 Media, a now-defunct division of Time Inc. He took a number of actions to change the network’s fortunes, not the least of which was putting into motion earlier this month a major reorganization of Metro Networks by consolidating 60 operations centers into 13 hubs, along with sweeping staff reductions. In addition to the reengineering of Metro Networks, Westwood also said it was reexamining its programming line up to sift out underperforming properties, upgrading its sales force, and looking to reduce corporate expenses. The company said all those actions should result in annualized cost savings of $25 to $30 million.

Apparently for The Gores Group that was too little too late.

–with additional reporting by Jeffrey Yorke, Radio and Records