Lew Dickey’s Last Goodbye: Cumulus Co-Founder Exits Board


In 1997, Lewis W. Dickey Jr. co-founded Cumulus Media, the No. 2 owner of radio stations in the U.S.

In June 2000, the man who goes by “Lew” took the reins as CEO, leading the company to rapid growth. In an April 2014 RBR + TVBR report, it was noted that Cumulus created $1.2 billion of shareholder value. A major refinancing had just been completed, two Chicago FMs were brought in to the family from Merlin Media, and NASH country music lifestyle brand had just been launched to great fanfare.

Three years later, the company has a new CEO, Mary Berner, who says Cumulus entered 2016 with a singular objective: “to fix the core business problems – poor culture, poor ratings and poor operational execution – which was essential to establishing a foundation on which to build improved financial results.”

Just 55 minutes after Thursday’s Opening Bell on Wall Street, Cumulus shares tumbled another 10%, to 37 cents a share.

With Cumulus’ high leverage still a tremendous burden, a debt for equity deal that would have sliced $305 million off of its borrowings no longer happening, and “debt bomb” discussions still rampant among media brokers, Dickey still had a presence with Cumulus, as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors.

On Monday, that role was relinquished, as Dickey made a quiet and official departure from a company he helped build through the completion of nearly 150 individual station transactions.

In a form 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed late Wednesday, Dickey notified Cumulus that he was resigning from the board. Why? The reason stated is simply “to pursue other professional interests.”

While Lew Dickey’s exit marks the end of his involvement with the company, the Dickey family retains a strong relationship with Cumulus. A Sept. 2011 stockholders agreement codified by Cumulus, the Dickeys and Crestview Radio Investors — made in connection with the completion of Cumulus’ acquisition of Citadel Broadcasting — allows one member of the Dickey family to hold a seat on the board of directors. Thus, with Lew Dickey’s departure, the family has the ultimate decision on who would replace him.

Lew’s successor on the board is his brother, John Dickey. 

John Dickey served as Cumulus’ EVP/Content & Programming until late September 2015, when Lew Dickey was replaced by Berner.

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