WESTWOOD ONE CEO RESIGNS AMID FOURTH-QUARTER WEAKNESS

Infinity’s Joel Hollander Steps In as Interim Head

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Westwood One CEO Shane Coppola has resigned his post the same day the company revised down its fourth-quarter earnings to a low single-digit decline, citing fourth-quarter ad weakness against solid demand for the same period last year.
Joel Hollander

The company has tapped its former CEO, Joel Hollander, as interim leader. Mr. Hollander now heads Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting.

“We will leave no stone unturned” in the search to find a new CEO, said Mr. Hollander, who noted the company will look both internally and externally. He told investors on a conference call this morning that he had already fielded calls from several radio executives and hopes to install a leader in January.

The publicly traded Westwood One is the country’s largest radio network, feeding more than 5,000 stations such content as Bill O’Reilly’s radio show, National Football League games and CBS Radio News. Infinity Broadcasting owns a minority stake in Westwood One.

Peter Kosann up for promotion?
Westwood One’s board of directors and Mr. Coppola mutually agreed to not renew his contract. One internal name rumored to be considered for the post is Co-Chief Operating Officer Peter Kosann, hired by Mr. Hollander to head the network side of the business. The other co-chief operating officer, Chuck Bortnik, mans the traffic-side business and came in with the company’s 1999 acquisition of traffic giant Metro Networks, which he headed.

In explaining the revised fourth-quarter earnings, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Zaref said compared to last year’s fourth quarter “demand is somewhat soft. We started the quarter okay, but now as we have progressed [demand’s] just not there.”

The company lowered expected fourth-quarter results to a negative single digit number; the annual results will be flat to slightly down. It didn’t give any 2006 guidance. Through third quarter, Westwood’s revenue was flat compared to the same period last year. Merrill Lynch Analyst Larraine Mancini revised her fourth-quarter estimate to -1.5%.

Clear Channel results
The network radio guidance flies in the face of what investors had been hearing from executives at Clear Channel Communications, which owns Premiere Radio Networks. During its third-quarter earnings call, Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan said that while the company’s radio revenue declined 4% during the quarter, dissecting the revenue streams revealed that “local business was stronger than our national business, and has been the case throughout this year, and our network and traffic business performed very well.”

At this week’s investor conferences, Clear Channel Chief Financial Officer Randall Mays called the traffic business “the fastest growing part of our radio business.”

Clear Channel, however, doesn’t break out network and traffic revenue in its earnings releases.

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