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Cisneros sez adios to Univision post

Prez to found American CityVista to create inner city housing

MIAMI — Univision Communications prexy and chief operating officer Henry Cisneros has ankled the Spanish-lingo net after 3-1/2 years to establish a housing service.

He also resigned his Univision board membership. Univision chairman and CEO A. Jerrold (Jerry) Perenchio will assume his responsibilities in the near term.

Cisneros, a former secretary of housing and urban development and a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, is ankling in order to found San Antonio-based American CityVista to create housing in inner-city areas of selected metro regions.

Cisneros’ departure from Univision should not impact operations since most senior execs reported to Perenchio anyway, Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said. She did not expect a big effect either on financials or the stock, which she said has been the best performing in the broadcast sector this year.

Cisneros’ principal responsibilities, Univision said, had been “to assist Perenchio in coordinating the efforts of Univision’s multiple operating divisions, with a particular emphasis on the company’s sales initiatives.”

Univision’s executive team remains intact, including network prexy Ray Rodriguez and the two co-presidents of network sales, Dennis McCauley and Tom McGarrity.

While Cisneros’ return to a public-service-oriented job was not a complete surprise, it came sooner than some had expected.

Cisneros joined Univision in January 1997, when national advertisers were not paying as much attention to the U.S. Hispanic market as Univision execs felt it deserved. Cisneros was charged with raising the net’s profile with corporate and with Anglo America, analyst Reif Cohen said.

“He went in at the most senior levels, the chairmen or CEOs, whereas the Univision sales force did more traditional selling. They attacked from both sides,” she told Daily Variety. “There is a high profile for Univision now among both Spanish- and English-language advertisers, so our view is ‘mission accomplished.’ ”

Univision now bills itself as the fifth-largest network in the U.S.

Revenue for Univision Communications, which includes O&Os and Spanish-lingo cabler Galavision, grew 25% to $577 million in 1998 and jumped another 20% in 1999 to $693.1 million.

For the 1999-2000 upfront season, the net reported $425 million in completed sales contracts with 79 advertisers, up from about $300 million with 62 advertisers in the 1998-99 season. Its 2000-01 upfront perf, for which results should be released soon, is expected to be even stronger.

“His efforts on behalf of Univision were instrumental in our development, and he will certainly be missed,” Perenchio said in a statement.

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