Former DirecTV US and Fox Television Stations CEO Mitch Stern has joined Freedom Communications as its President and CEO. His appointment at the newspaper/TV company is effective Thursday, July 1st.
Stern had already been a member of Freedom’s Board of Directors. He succeeds Burl Osborne, who had been interim CEO for the past year as Freedom completed its reorganization in Chapter 11, exiting oversight by the federal bankruptcy court two months ago. Osborne will remain on the Board of Directors and also serve as a special advisor to the company.
“We are very pleased that Mitch has agreed to lead Freedom Communications as its Chief Executive Officer,” said Chairman of the Board James Dunning Jr. “With his 30 years of experience in the media industry, he brings a wealth of experience and forward-thinking to the job. His talents as both a strategic thinker and a hands-on executive are a perfect fit for Freedom, and make him the right person to lead our talented associates and diverse properties in tackling the challenges of the new media environment.”
“This is a great opportunity at a great company. There is a multitude of talent at Freedom and a real desire on the part of everyone to move forward and create new ways of serving the company’s many communities. With its local focus and national breadth, and with a successful restructuring behind it, Freedom is perfectly positioned to demonstrate what it means to be a new kind of media company. My job from day one will be to focus all our talents and energies on achieving that goal,” said Stern of his appointment.
Stern had been one of the board members appointed when the company emerged from chapter 11 with most of its equity held by a group of banks, primarily JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust Banks and Union Bank of California. The financial reorganization relieved the company of $450 million in debt, but left members of the founding Hoiles family and their private equity backers, Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners, holding only a small stake in the company.
Prior to his most recent position as President and CEO of DirecTV US, Stern was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Television Stations Inc. from 1998 to 2003 and President and Chief Operating Officer from 1993 to 2003. He was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Fox Stations Group from 1992 to 1993, Senior Vice President of Fox Television Stations and Vice President and Station Manager at KTTV-TV Los Angeles from 1990 to 1992, and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from 1986 to 1990.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Stern held various programming and management positions at CBS Corporation in New York from 1978 to 1986. He has a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Stern also serves on the board of the Triton Media Group.
Freedom Communications owns approximately 100 daily and weekly publications, plus ancillary magazines and other specialty publications. The broadcast division consists of five CBS, two ABC and one CW affiliate, collectively reaching more than three million households.