Cumulus Media drowning in debt, stock slides

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Sunday, January 10, 2016

My colleague Russell Grantham wrote a piece for the Sunday business section about Atlanta-based Cumulus Media.

The company - which is the second biggest radio company in America only behind IHeartMedia - runs several stations in Atlanta: Kicks 101.5, Q100, Rock 100.5, OG 97.9, 99X and NewsRadio 106.7.

The Dickey brothers, principally John and Lew, spent the past 19 years building their company after deregulation began. They started in small markets but through acquisition added stations in many major markets. They now have 454 stations in 90 markets. Unfortunately, their most recent purchase of Citadel (which included Kicks and the 106.7 signal) saddled them with debt they have struggled to work down. What's worse, radio revenues in general have been flat to falling slightly in recent years as media dollars have migrated online.

Read the entire story here.  (The story was finished before the switch at 98.9 to 99X from Nash ICON.)

Without growth, working down $2.5 billion in debt is mighty difficult. And critics believe the company has scrimped on investment in programming and talent.

With losses mounting, Cumulus stock fell from about $4 a share a year ago to less than 28 cents on Friday, an astonishing 93 percent drop in one year. Last fall, there was a management shakeup, which tossed John out as the No. 2 exec and removed Lew from the CEO spot. (He remains on the board.)

The new CEO Mary Berner, who has run Readers' Digest, is working out of New York. A spokesman said Cumulus has no plans to move headquarters from Atlanta despite rumors. Also, a spokesman shot down talk that Cumulus may seek bankruptcy protection and is still throwing off significant amounts of cash.

The rather humbling fall of the Cumulus stock price in 2015.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
X