UPDATED with news of Univision laying off 20 employees
Univision Communications is preparing for a restructuring and a change at the top as the company confirmed CEO Randy Falco is preparing his exit, just four months after he signed a two-year contract extension.
Word of Falco’s plan to retire comes one day after Univision acknowledged that it has tabled plans for the IPO that it first registered for in 2015. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night that the Univision board was considered replacements for Falco. In a statement, Univision said Falco had recently approached the board about accelerating his retirement. Falco, who was a longtime NBC executive and ran AOL after its separation from Time Warner, will be 65 at the end of this year. He has been at the helm of the Spanish-language media giant for the past eight years.
In a statement Univision chairman Haim Saban sought to downplay rumors that the board had lost faith in Falco’s leadership.
“There are multiple rumors out there and on behalf of the Univision Board I would like to set the record straight about our CEO Randy Falco. Recently Randy came to us and told us that he would like to retire at the end of 2018 when he will turn 65 years old and end an outstanding eight-year tenure as the CEO of Univision,” Saban said in a statement. “Let me be clear we at the Board of Univision have reluctantly agreed to Randy’s wishes out of respect and the high regard we have for him as a partner. During his time as CEO he has modernized the Univision organization, grown earnings and reduced debt at record levels and we could not be more pleased with his performance. We have asked Randy to work with us over the next year in restructuring the company and consult with the board on a transition to new leadership.”
The failure of the IPO effort led to a shakeup on the corporate side on Tuesday with Frank Lopez-Balboa exiting as chief financial officer after nearly three years. He was replaced by Peter Lori, who has held various financial posts since joining Univision from accounting giants Arthur Andersen and KPMG in 2005.
Univision has been grappling with a heavy debt load and the sector-wide challenges facing its core broadcasting business. Univision’s chief rival Telemundo has been on a ratings roll, thanks to increased investment from parent NBCUniversal, and has challenged Univision’s market share dominance for the first time in more than 20 years.
Univision, meanwhile, has sought to diversify in the past few years with the launch of cable offshoots and investments in an array of digital media companies, including the Root, Fusion, the Onion and the assets of Gawker Media.
But there have been questions about its long-term strategy and persistent rumors that the company was shopping itself heavily to such suitors as John Malone and CBS Corp. The clutch of private equity firms, led by Saban Capital, that bought Univision for $11 billion in 2006 are said to have been seeking an exit strategy for the past few years.
A Univision rep declined comment on the Journal report that the company has hired an outside firm to conduct a strategic review that could lead to deep cost cuts of as much as $200 million.
On Friday, Univision confirmed that it has laid off 20 employees as part of its restructuring process.
“As the media industry rapidly evolves, we are focused on continuing to transform UCI for the future,” the company said in a statement. “As part of this process, we have recently taken steps to realign parts of our operations and reallocate resources to invest in growth that will best serve our audiences, community and partners. This week, 20 positions were eliminated across various UCI business units.”