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Berner Begins Making Her Moves

Changes at Cumulus are precursor to webinar about plans ‘that will facilitate a turnaround'

Beginning to follow through on her plans to drive the media company forward, Cumulus CEO Mary Berner announced a handful of personnel hires and reiterated the company’s focus on beefing up its programming strategy.

“Over the past two months, the team and I have been listening to your feedback and actively developing strategies that will result in better operational blocking and tackling; growth in our ratings; and a focused, responsible collaborative and empowered corporate culture,” Berner wrote in a message sent to Cumulus and Westwood One employees and shared with radio trade media. “Collectively, we will get Cumulus back on track and begin the evolution into a true next-generation radio business – with the personal and professional opportunities for all of you that come with that.”

Berner named media and ad exec Suzanne Grimes to the dual role of president of the Westwood One Division as well as executive vice president of corporate marketing for all of Cumulus, effective Jan. 1. Grimes will be in familiar territory ; she is the former president and chief operating officer of Clear Channel Outdoor North America. She will “unlock the significant potential of our national content and sales platform” in her capacity as the division leader of Westwood One, Berner said, and will be supported by Westwood One President Steve Shaw, who will continue to lead ad sales, and Charles Steinhauer, Westwood One COO, who will continue to lead operations.

In her role with corporate marketing, Grimes will develop new marketing strategies “designed to drive more revenue,” Berner said. She’ll be supported there by Pierre Bouvard, chief marketing officer; and Lori Lewis, vice president of Social Media.

The company is also putting renewed focus on its NASH country music network radio brand. Tommy Page has been named senior vice president of Brand Partnerships and NASH. He’s carrying a big bag: further developing the NASH brand strategy, leading Cumulus’ platform events initiatives and brand partnerships, and playing a role in corporate marketing.

Continued investment in programming strategy also led Berner to create a new Office of Programming, which will be led by Mike McVay, senior vice president of content and programming. He’ll be joined by Tom Schurr, senior vice president of operations, who will oversee the business aspects of programming, including organization and prioritization, resource allocation, and budget responsibilities.

“Our belief with regard to ratings is that more local insight and more effective corporate support will result in an improved outcome,” Berner said in the note. The new Office of Programming is responsible for executing this strategy to drive ratings growth, she said, with more details coming over the next few weeks.

The announcements are a precursor to Cumulus company-wide webinar on the afternoon of Dec. 17.

“On Thursday’s company-wide address, I will lay out more of the detail around the specific areas of focus that will facilitate a turnaround,” Berner wrote in her memo. These personnel changes are designed to “propel our business forward,” she said.