DORAL, FLA. — With tongues wagging following the company’s decision not to move forward with an Initial Public Offering and the naming of Peter H. Lori as Univision’s CFO, replacing an individual brought on to bring the IPO to fruition, Univision Communications majority owner and chairman Haim Saban and the company’s Board of Directors went to Twitter on Wednesday evening “to set the record straight” about its CEO.
As many in the Hispanic marketing and media world have privately discussed for months, Randy Falco will retire at the end of 2018, when he will reach the age of 65.
In a brief statement released by Univision, Saban addressed “multiple rumors” regarding Falco’s decision to exit Univision at year’s end, wrapping up an eight-year tenure as the head of Univision.
First, he said, Falco came to the board expressing his desire to retire.
Second, he emphasized, “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.”
This statement was designed to mute a report in Variety suggesting that Falco’s retirement is directly tied to Univision’s scrapped IPO plans and the departure of Frank J. López-Balboa, who Lori has replaced.
In the report, it is noted that Falco in November 2017 signed a two-year contract with Univision, keeping him in place until January 2020.
Falco’s retirement comes following a similar move from former President of Advertising Sales & Marketing Keith Turner. Turner retired at the end of 2017, concluding four decades in the media industry. He had been with UCI since 2012.
Speaking highly of Falco, Saban concluded, “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.”
Alexandra Steigrad, a reporter with the famed tabloid New York Post, sees the retirement of Falco a bit differently. In a report appearing Wednesday evening at the newspaper’s website, the Post says the Univision board’s search for a new CEO is on “after growing disenchanted with Falco’s vision.”
The tabloid quoted an unnamed source as saying “things came crashing down around Falco after a March 1 board meeting where he presented his vision for the company.”
This statement has not been verified or corroborated.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal published a report on its website Wednesday evening and in Thursday’s editions (3/8) focused not on Falco’s retirement but on “a business review that could lead to large cost cuts.” It sourced “people familiar with the matter.”
The Journal noted, “The business review could result in cost cuts in the range of $200 million, including significant layoffs, some of the people said.”
Furthermore, the Journal quoted “one executive with knowledge of the culture inside Univision of late” who claims “that everybody there is ‘crabby and cranky.’”
The Journal then blamed “dwindling immigration from Mexico and other parts of Latin America” as one reason for Univision’s struggle to bring in advertisers and potential suitors. As has been extensively reported across the Hispanic market trade press and in research reports conducted for some eight years, births — rather than immigration — are fueling Hispanic market growth. This has led to an increase in bilingual U.S.-born Hispanics who continue to consume at least some Spanish-language media.
Yet, the Journal continues, “Executives close to the company worry that as Spanish-speakers stay in the U.S. longer and become assimilated, they will have less reason to turn to a Spanish-language broadcaster.”
RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: According to sources close to executives in the know who really heard a rumor from the guy waiting for a table at Cote Korean Steakhouse, Univision is a mess. Oh, man … we love a good news story but between the New York Post, Variety and The Wall Street Journal we just want to cue up that old Timex Social Club hit “Rumors.” The news regarding Falco’s retirement has been floating around Miami social circles since holiday parties in early December. In fact, the November contract signing was the bigger surprise as White Elephant presents were exchanged ahead of Nochebuena celebrations involving a giant pig roast in a coffin out in the backyards of many Miami Latinos. We are well aware of the challenges Univision faces, but let’s stick to the facts. Even after the statement released Wednesday evening from Univision’s Public Relations pros, multiple news organizations stuck with their sources.
Look, you want a good rumor? Seize on this: On October 26, 2017, Emilio Azcárraga Jean said he would step down as head of Televisa at the end of the year. Why? He’s replacing Falco, Miami cognoscenti who enjoy a good cafecito and power lunches at Café Abbraci in Coral Gables insist.
We’ll let that rumor filter out as we jam to Timex Social Club in between reporting the facts to our readers.