More information is surfacing about iHeartRadio layoffs in Denver and other Colorado locations amid what one insider estimated at approximately 1,500 total job cuts at stations across the country.
In addition to more names and details about local personalities affected, including Jerry Schemmel, voice of the Colorado Rockies, Westword has obtained an internal memo and accompanying documents that refer to the layoffs as "dislocations" and hypes the use of artificial intelligence, or AI, as a key component for the company moving forward.
Slashes in Colorado haven't been as draconian as at some other iHeartRadio markets, but they're still significant. On top of Schemmel and one other big name Westword isn't naming at this writing (the veteran broadcaster hasn't responded to our outreach thus far), we're told a number of behind-the-scenes personnel such as board operators have been bid farewell, as has at least one on-air personality at a pair of music stations: Deanna Regaldo, who worked afternoons at 95.7 The Party and middays at KSME in Fort Collins.
Pink slips have also been delivered in other iHeartRadio locations in the state, with one prominent recipient being Kevin Cano, previously of KKLI in Colorado Springs. Regaldo, Cano and Schemmel are all noted on this running list of iHeartRadio downsizing nationwide.
Our previous post on the layoffs characterized iHeartRadio as "struggling for revenue" and suggested that the firm "isn't exactly swimming in cash." A knowledgeable source pushed back against these assertions, arguing that "after a small downturn in 2017, iHeart’s revenue has recovered strongly and was up something like 3 percent in 2019 over 2018, and around 4 percent excluding political revenue (e.g. a fairer representation of the ongoing business)." The insider added that a report from late last year maintained that the corporation "continued to generate robust cash from operating activities and Free Cash Flow, increasing our cash position to $277.1 million; on track to reach goal of $375-$400 million of cash on the balance sheet at year-end."
Of course, this information may only increase the frustration of those given their walking papers — and the same could be true of the aforementioned memo, sent to remaining employees this week under the signatures of iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman and COO and CFO Rich Bressler.
The document outlines a major reorganization of iHeartRadio's vast holdings, with stations placed under three divisional umbrellas based largely on market size. Under this plan, Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs are treated as a single unit in the Region Division, which encompasses the largest markets in the country. Overseen by Scott Hopeck, who previously handled matters in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco/Sacramento, it joins those four areas plus Houston, Dallas, Boston, Washington, D.C./Baltimore, Miami, Phoenix and Minneapolis.
Layoffs aside, the tone of the memo is rah-rah exuberant, with a focus on the company's achievements and outlook rather than staffer exits. The reference to the latter is almost parenthetical and couched in the sort of human-relations jargon that pretends to cushion the blow. It reads: "As we move to more fully utilizing our investments in technology there will be some employee dislocation — some by geography and some by function — which is the unfortunate price we pay to modernize the company. We have had to make some tough decisions, and in the process some employees have been affected. Please know we were thoughtful in this process and have provided enhanced severance benefits as well as outplacement assistance for any impacted employees, and we want to thank them for the valuable contributions they have made."
Elsewhere, the theme is consolidation and the use of technology to maximize profits. Artificial intelligence is mentioned twice, including an excerpt about divisions taking "advantage of our scale; our new and robust technology capabilities, including AI; and shared resources across programming, marketing, sales and sales support."
Sounds like good news for the folks who maintain the machines. And radio professionals? Not so much. Continue to read the memo, which reproduces bold print found in the original.
iHeartMedia memo from Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler
As the new decade begins, we have never been more enthusiastic about iHeart — and we have never been stronger. iHeart is the rare example of a major traditional media company that has made the successful transformation to a 21st century media company. Working together, we have transformed and built our company’s products and platforms — maximizing our significant technology investments to change everything from how we sell advertising to how we utilize data and build new businesses like our digital platform, podcast platform and robust data platform — all of which have given us an undisputed leadership position in the media world, with a leading and universally-recognized master brand — iHeartRadio.
We are the #1 audio company in America:
• #1 in broadcast radio;
• #1 in digital radio;
• #1 in commercial podcasting;
• #1 in social among audio players;
• #1 in radio networks;
• #1 in video among audio players, including on YouTube and Snap;
• #1 in targeting, analytics and attribution in the audio sector with our SmartAudio suite of services;
And we reach 91% of Americans every month with our broadcast assets alone, more than any other media company.
We are now taking the next major step — modernizing our company by transforming our operating structure to more fully utilize the technology assets we have built. We are now a technology-powered business, and our new operating structure will reflect that.
These are the three important 2020 initiatives critical to our modernization:
1. A new organizational structure for our Markets Group, which will continue to be led by Greg Ashlock:
Our company is built on the strength of broadcast radio — the markets in which we operate and the connection of our stations to the communities they serve. Our top priority is to maximize the performance of each market using our one-of-a-kind scale and multiple platforms; leadership in audio and technology; and our master brand, plus our expertise in consumers and monetization, data and artificial intelligence (AI).
We will now group our markets by common needs and characteristics into three distinctly different divisions to make sharing of resources and experiences easier and more targeted.
Here is our new Markets Group Division structure:
• The Region Division: The Region Division comprises our largest markets, like New York and Los Angeles, that each reach hundreds of cities, communities and trading areas for local businesses. The Region Division will be led by Division Presidents Kevin LeGrett and Scott Hopeck.
• The Metro Division: The Metro Division houses markets that are large and still encompass multiple communities — but are not quite regional hubs like our largest markets and which have a greater percentage of local advertising than our Regions. The Metro Division will be led by Division Presidents Tom McConnell, Tony Coles and Linda Byrd.
• The Community Division: The Community Division includes markets that focus on the shared needs of one community and one trading area for most businesses and advertisers, and will also group most markets into ‘areas’ which are geographically close and culturally similar. Our reliance on local retail advertisers is greatest in these markets. The Community Division will be led by Division Presidents Shosh Abromovich, Nick Gnau and Dan Lankford.
Attached you’ll find a list of the Markets in each new Division and a short bio on each Division President.
Additionally, we are creating a new Division that cuts across all Markets and has become core to our growth strategy: Our very successful Multi-Market Partnerships (MMP) Division headed by Julie Donohue, who is elevated to President of MMP with responsibility for this business. Multi-Market Partnerships empowers our sales teams, regardless of market size and location, to access and leverage all the assets iHeartMedia offers.
For all Divisions we will take advantage of our scale; our new and robust technology capabilities, including AI; and shared resources across programming, marketing, sales and sales support, as well as our unique digital products and capabilities, to provide a better experience for our listeners and business partners and a more efficient process for all of our employees.
As part of this important step in the transformation of our company, the Integrated Revenue Strategies Group, led by Hartley Adkins, will be merged into the Markets Group; Hartley will now be Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Markets Group, working closely with Greg Ashlock.
2. Centers of Excellence.
In addition to our unrivaled scale, our expertise in the audio sector is unsurpassed — and the more we can utilize and channel that expertise for every single market and every aspect of our company, the stronger we are.
To that end, you may have read about the leading technology companies that have developed Centers of Excellence, which consolidate functional areas of expertise in specific locations to deliver the highest-quality products and services for the entire company. We too are moving to Centers of Excellence that are the result of the great strides we’ve made in improving our technology backbone and the half a billion dollar investment we’ve made in building out our core infrastructure, in addition to strategic acquisitions we have made like Jelli, Stuff Media and RadioJar.
The recently-announced digital services and digital innovation center in Nashville is our most recent example of a Center of Excellence.
Our people are our company’s most important asset. The decisions we each make every day are the lifeblood of our company, and diverse points of view and backgrounds are essential to making the best decisions. That’s why diversity and inclusion are so critical to our company.
You’ll be hearing more about our plans as the year unfolds, but we want you to know we are taking major steps that range from actively pursuing increased diversity on our company’s Board of Directors to embedding diversity into the mission of our People organization, headed by Lorna Hagen, our company’s first Chief People Officer, and including diversity considerations in all our major hiring and promotion decisions.
We will keep you informed of our progress and we thank you for your personal involvement and commitment to diversity at every level and in every part of our company.
As we move to more fully utilizing our investments in technology there will be some employee dislocation — some by geography and some by function — which is the unfortunate price we pay to modernize the company. We have had to make some tough decisions, and in the process some employees have been affected. Please know we were thoughtful in this process and have provided enhanced severance benefits as well as outplacement assistance for any impacted employees, and we want to thank them for the valuable contributions they have made.
Taken together, our transformation and modernization initiatives are essential to being competitive in 2020. They are intended to improve the way we operate and build new products while enabling us to better serve our partners and communities now and in the future.
These new initiatives are critical to not only continuing iHeart’s leadership position as the number one audio company in America but accelerating it. We are embracing our future. Thank you for joining us on this journey as we all look forward to an exciting new decade of growth, innovation and leadership.
Bob and Rich
Click to read the iHeartMedia markets group division presidents' bios and the iHeartMedia division presidents and market names.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.