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Setting The New Order At New Media General

Sadusky
Sadusky
The leadership of Vincent Sadusky was key to winning approval of the merger of LIN Media into Media General, which is expected to close late this year or early in 2015. He will bring in a leadership team, displacing many longtime LIN executives. IBut it's still unclear what’s in store for two top TV execs, Media General’s Deb McDermott and LIN’s Jay Howell, since their current jobs overlap.
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When the $1.6 billion Media General-LIN Media merger closes late this year or early next, LIN's Vincent Sadusky will be running the show even though Media General shareholders will own 64% of the new company.

For Media General, getting the deal done was more important than guaranteeing tenure for its current management. LIN Media shareholders, led by big investments firms, had insisted that Sadusky be put in charge.

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Making the management concession was an implicit acknowledgement by Media General controlling shareholders, including Standard General's Soohyung Kim, that Sadusky's success in transforming LIN into a leading broadcaster and digital media company is just what the New Media General needs to move beyond its old-school newspaper roots.

"Both companies have run excellent stations, but LIN is on the forefront of digital, both in terms of buying companies and developing services," says Larry Patrick of Patrick Communications. "There's also a difference in perspective and seeing where the industry is going."

"They [Media General executives] were a legacy management team steeped for long time on the newspaper side," says another industry watcher. "There are a lot of lifers around there."

According to SEC documents, only Sadusky has an employment agreement with New Media General.

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But if recently announced executive suite departures at Media General are any indication, the decks are being cleared for Sadusky to bring in his people.

His people include Richard Schmaeling, SVP and CFO; Robert Richter, SVP, digital; Denise Parent, SVP and chief legal officer; and John "Jay" Howell, VP, television.

Departing Media General executives are led by CEO George Mahoney. As previously announced, he will leave his post when the merger is consummated. Two key broadcast vice presidents — John Cottingham and James Conschafter — are leaving the company at the end of November and December, respectively.

Lou Anne Nabham, VP-corporate communications, also is departing and Robert McPherson, who had been VP-human resources, exited at the end of June.

Mahoney, in a letter to employees that was posted by TVSpy, said 45 positions are being eliminated, many of them currently filled by longtime Media General employees.

The letter did not detail the positions, but a source familiar with the situation said that, in effect, all corporate vice presidents and a number of second-level managers also are losing their jobs.

The fates of two Media General broadcast executives — Deborah McDermott and Robert Peterson — are unclear. Both made the move to Media General with the Young merger.

McDermott, a veteran broadcaster and president of Young Broadcasting since 2004, survived Young's bankruptcy and the merger with Media General, where she is SVP-broadcast markets.

Peterson, also a veteran broadcaster, joined Young when the company acquired WTEN from Knight-Ridder in 1989. He's now VP-broadcast markets at Media General.

McDermott is well respected in the broadcast community and industry observers say she appears to have earned Kim's respect and trust. She could be a good fit for New Media General on the broadcast television operations side, says Bishop Cheen.

"Deb took a bad situation [at Young] and made it better," says Cheen, an independent analyst and consultant at SNL/Kagan. "She's a great chief operating officer. She's done a good job of improving the efficiencies of the Young and Media General stations."

Before becoming president at Young, McDermott was EVP-operations from 1996 to 2004. When she moved to Media General with the Young-Media General merger, it was not her first stint there. She was station manager at Media General's WKRN (ABC) in Nashville (DMA 29) from 1986 to 1989. From 1980 to 1996, she was station manager andVP at WKRN.

However, McDermott's current role would duplicate that of Jay Howell, the top broadcast operations executive at LIN. Howell has risen through the ranks at LIN and was appointed to his position in January 2014 following the retirement of longtime LIN TV boss Scott Blumenthal at the end of 2013.

Howell started with LIN in 2002 as president-GM of WPRI and WNAC Providence, R.I. (DMA 53). He started his broadcasting career at WTOV Steubenville, Ohio, in 1989.

Sadusky's taking over the leadership of Media General was a key provision in merger negotiations, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They provide a glimpse of what went on behind the scenes leading to the merger.

In a Feb. 22, 2014, internal meeting to discuss the possible merger, LIN's Investment Advisory Committee discussed which management team should lead the new company. It determined, in essence, that Sadusky helming the new company would be a key condition to the merger.

"The LIN IAC discussed the importance of Mr. Sadusky leading the combined company following the closing of the transaction, given that a significant portion of the merger consideration to be received by LIN’s shareholders would consist of stock of the combined company and the LIN IAC’s view that Mr. Sadusky’s leadership would best position the surviving entity to perform well in the future.

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
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    1.2/4
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    1.2/4
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    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
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    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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