In a surprising move, Dhruv Prasad has resigned from his dual roles as co-CEO and Director of Townsquare Media, effective Jan. 31. Prasad is a co-founder of the media company focused on radio stations in small and mid-sized markets.
As a result, co-CEO Bill Wilson will serve as the sole Chief Executive Officer of the publicly traded company, which has seen its stock price battered in recent months.
Further, Wilson — along with co-founder and CFO Stuart Rosenstein and EVP/Investor Relations and Corporate Communications Claire Yenicay, will assume the management responsibilities Prasad held over the past year.
Prasad co-founded Townsquare in 2010 and served as SVP of Strategy and Operations and EVP of Live Events before being appointed Co-CEO in 2017.
In prepared comments distributed Wednesday before the Opening Bell on Wall Street, Wilson thanked Prasad for his contributions to Townsquare over his longstanding tenure, “and in particular, his partnership over the past year as co-CEO. Together, we were able to reorient Townsquare to focus on our ‘Local First’ strategy and successfully rationalize our non-local businesses.”
Wilson continued, “I look forward to continuing this strategy, which has driven strong local growth in 2018, particularly within our digital businesses, and solidified our position as the premier local advertising and marketing solutions company in the heartland of America.”
Now, Wilson will do it under the guidance of the man that helped establish Townsquare with Prasad — co-founder and Executive Chairman Steven Price.
Price had been Townsquare’s lone CEO until October 2017, when he transitioned to his current role.
Price said, “We thank Dhruv for his hard work and contribution in building the Company over nearly a decade and for his leadership over the last year as Co-Chief Executive Officer, a period in which we reset our strategy on our core local mission and delivered financial results that were at the top of the industry. We wish him the very best as he embarks on his next chapter.”
What does the future hold for Prasad? He’s not sharing details as of yet.
“I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished since founding Townsquare in 2010,” he said. “From scratch, we created not only the nation’s third-largest radio broadcaster, but also built new, profitable businesses in live events and digital. With the Company on strong footing and in the hands of an outstanding senior management team, it’s time for me to move on to my next challenge.”
Wilson joined Townsquare in September 2010 and, along with Prasad, ascended to co-CEO in October 2017.
He had been EVP/Chief Content & Digital Officer of the company and joined Townsquare after serving as President of AOL Media from 2006 to May 2010, with nine years of total time at AOL.
Before joining AOL in 2001, Wilson was in the music industry, as SVP/Worldwide Marketing at Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), which he joined in 1992 and was responsible for worldwide marketing including artist, digital and non-traditional marketing across more than 50 countries.
For Prasad, a position in the financial services industry is likely. Before joining Townsquare in May 2010, he served as Managing Director of Greenwich, Conn.-based FiveWire Ventures, a software and services company he founded in 1998. Before that, Prasad spent two years as a VP of Thomas H. Lee Partners, one of the largest shareholders of iHeartMedia as a result of a now-infamous July 2008 merger of predecessor company Clear Channel Communications with an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings Inc., a corporation formed by a private equity group co-led by Lee and Bain Capital Partners.
Prasad was at Thomas H. Lee through the consummation of the $24 billion Clear Channel deal, which put iHeart on a route that led to its present debtor-in-possession status and its quest to lower its $20 billion in debt to roughly $5.75 billion.
Before coming on board at Thomas H. Lee Partners, Prasad was an associate at Spectrum Equity, and prior to that at Capital Z Partners. Following his graduation in 1999 from Dartmouth College, Prasad took his first professional role, as a Salomon Smith Barney financial analyst. Prasad holds an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Townsquare opens Wednesday’s trading on NYSE at $4.08; TSQ has been trading at all-time lows for the last two weeks and starts 2019 some $3.42 lower in value than one year ago. But, what is particular painful for Townsquare shareholders — and a possible catalyst for Prasad’s resignation, is Townsquare’s performance on Wall Street since Labor Day.
On August 27, Townsquare shares were at $9.62. By Sept. 5, a $9.75 finish was seen. The company’s financials looked solid, with “no more NAME to blame” as its entertainment and events division was reduced as part of an effort to focus on radio and local digital operations.
However, TSQ went into a steady free-fall, bottoming out at $4.04 in the last trading week of 2018 — even as Townsquare went ex-dividend on Dec. 26, usually an investor incentive to retain shares, not sell them.
Just before 10am Eastern, TSQ shares were up 3.8% on the news of Prasad’s departure.
Townsquare’s assets presently include 321 radio stations in 67 U.S. markets, digital marketing solutions company Townsquare Interactive, proprietary digital programmatic advertising platform Townsquare Ignite, and roughly 200 live events. Top markets include Buffalo-Niagara Falls; Albany, N.Y.; El Paso; and Trenton, N.J., with stations in central New Jersey reaching much of the Philadelphia market and New York City suburbs west of the Hudson River.