Clearheadedly restructuring

Radio's biggest player, Clear Channel, last week reorganized its 1,200-plus- station group into eight regional units and 20 "trading areas."

The idea, said John Hogan, Clear Channel Radio president and COO, is to "maximize the synergy of our unique 50-state reach for our customers."

Each of the eight regions will be run by a senior vice president. The 20 trading areas create a new management tier of regional vice presidents, who will each manage a large market while overseeing smaller markets and report to one of the eight senior vice presidents. All markets will continue to have a local general manager, the company said.

The reorganization came only days after the company announced it will be hiring 500 account execs over the next several weeks.

Filling the eight senior vice president slots are current Clear Channel International President John Cullen, five current Clear Channel senior vice presidents—Jim Shea, Peter Ferrara, Dave Crowl, Jay Meyers and Jim Donahoe—and former Market Managers Rob Williams and J.D. Freeman.

There's a perception, said Leland Westerfield, UBS Warburg analyst, "that any reorganization comes out of weakness, whether it's in a good economy or a bad economy. But this is not a move out of weakness." As Clear Channel has grown, he noted, it has periodically changed structure.

"Clear Channel has famously decentralized its management," he said, "and this is a step along those lines. The personnel restructuring plays to the strengths in its rank and file, which is among radio's finest. It's a challenge to keep that kind of talent."

Barrington Research Associates analyst James Goss agreed. "It's hard to run 1,200 stations centrally," he said. "And now there's an opportunity for promotion for the talent that shines."

Expanding its sales force, Westerfield says, "pays respect to the localism of radio. Local advertising looks to be a more stable source of dollars."