CBS has tapped former Viacom exec VP and chief financial officer Fredric C. Reynolds as prexy of CBS Television Stations Division, a post John Severino is ankling.
Severino’s exit had been expected (Daily Variety, March 2).
Reynolds stepped down from his New York-based CFO post earlier this month in order to relocate to the West Coast and take what was then an undefined post within the conglom (Daily Variety, March 6).
As prexy of CBS TV Stations, Reynolds will oversee the company’s TV station properties, including the 16 CBS and 19 UPN stations.
He’s not expected to take on Severino’s role as general manager of O&O KCBS Los Angeles; no successor has been appointed for that post and Severino will head the station during the transition period, CBS Television prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves said.
According to Moonves, Severino’s exit comes “with no acrimony,” as the exec’s two-year contract is about to conclude.
Ready to retire
Severino said he is not likely to pursue another big gig. “My contract expires in June, and that’s a wrap,” he said. “I will be 65 in a couple of months and want to take some time while I’m healthy and strong to do the things I’ve wanted to do.
“I’ve worked for a guy named Mel Karmazin, who is probably one of the most demanding people I’ve ever worked for, which is one of the reasons I have a large part of my portfolio invested in Viacom,” Severino added. “So I’m financially at a secure enough point that I can go and do what I want.”
While Reynolds has long been a senior exec with the company, his background does not include any major stints running TV stations directly.
Reynolds had been exec VP and chief financial officer of Viacom since May. In that role, he was responsible for all of Viacom’s financial functions, including treasury, accounting, internal audit, insurance and risk management, tax, mergers and acquisitions, info systems and financial planning and business analysis.
Before, he had been exec VP/CFO of CBS Corp. since December 1997. In 1994, he was named exec VP/CFO of Westinghouse Electric, and in April 1996 he assumed the additional post of CFO of CBS Inc.
Moonves said he’s not worried about Reynolds’ lack of station experience.
“He was the CFO of a major corporation with stations, so he knows the station business from that side. Knowing the team is the important thing. When you head a station group, it’s about being a top executive and coordinating different executives and different responsibilities,” Moonves said. “Experience can be overrated. Hey, when I came to CBS, it was my first network job. I came from the studios.”
The head-of-stations job is considered a tough one, as CBS stations have struggled in the ratings in major markets, particularly with their news, which is traditionally a driving force for most local stations.
When Moonves brought Severino in to do the job in the summer of 1999, Severino was replacing Jonathan Klein. Moonves noted at the time that Severino faced a real challenge, considering CBS’ outlets in L.A. and Gotham were “two stations that need a lot of help.”
Severino, whose extensive station background included the G.M. post at KABC and other high-ranking posts at ABC in the 1970s and ’80s, said then that KCBS had suffered for more than 15 years from revolving-door management (Daily Variety, July 7, 1999).
In his two years as KCBS’ G.M., Severino shuffled news talent and launched news product such as “Woman 2 Woman,” but the station saw few major ratings shifts.
As station group prexy, Severino took on oversight of the Paramount stations after CBS and Viacom merged.
“We brought him on during a challenging time at the TV station group, and he performed with distinction throughout his tenure, most particularly after our merger with Viacom, as we integrated the CBS and UPN stations and created the framework for the company’s six duopolies,” Moonves said. “He’s a class act, and we wish him all the best.”