Exclusive: Fox Networks Group Cuts Ad Sales Staff

Fox Networks Group is cutting its ad sales staff following the consolidation of broadcast and cable ad sales units and Lou LaTorre, who had been president of ad sales for the Fox Cable Entertainment Networks is leaving his post.

LaTorre is one of the long-time Fox executives who was eligible to take a voluntary buyout offered in November 2014. Those buyouts are being followed with additional job eliminations beginning Thursday morning (Jan. 8) in New York. In all, the new consolidated sales unit will have about 75 fewer staffers.

Fox announced its plan to consolidate its ad sales operation in October under Fox Broadcasting sales chief Toby Byrne. At that time, LaTorre was expected to be Byrne’s number two, with the broadcast, cable and digital teams reporting to LaTorre. After a lengthy decision making process, LaTorre, a 19-year Fox Cable veteran, decided to take the buyout.

Fox’s broadcast revenues hadbeen shrinking because of lower primetime ratings driven by the decline of one-time powerhouse American Idol.  At the same time, cable ad sales have been growing steadily.

A Fox executive familiar with the situation noted that Fox “offered early retirement packages to several eligible employees and Lou determined he’d like to take advantage of it. Lou was one of the first people hired in the Fox cable sales group and has led that team for almost two decades.”

The executive said LaTorre “has been a huge asset to the company and we’re sorry to see him go but we wish him all the best. He will be consulting for us for the next several months.”

LaTorre is on vacation in Thailand. He is expected to seek a new job in the business.

The combination of broadcast and cable sales created a unit with about 300 people. The buyouts and layoffs are expected to reduce that to about 225.

“As was previously reported, Fox has combined our sales groups to better serve our advertising partners. The first step in this process was to offer eligible employees an opportunity to receive early retirement packages. Between those choices and the number of open positions that will not be filled, we have been able to significantly mitigate the number of positions affected.  However, we have had to make some additional reductions in order to create an efficient, customer-focused sales organization,” Fox said in a statement.  

“We recognize that the changes we are making are difficult but necessary, and out of respect to our dedicated colleagues who have been affected, we will not be commenting further.”

LaTorre joined Fox in 1997 as president of sales Fox Sports Net after a stint as head of the sales and marketing division of New World Communications, which owned 10 Fox affiliates. Previously he’d been executive VP for sales at Turner Entertainment, where he was succeeded by Randy Freer. Freer is now chief operating officer of Fox Networks Group and implemented the consolidation of Fox’s ad sales organization.

Late last year, several media companies went through rounds of employee buyouts and layoffs. Several Time Warner units —Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros. and HBO— reorganized and had large scale layoffs, while Scripps Networks Interactive imposed cuts across the board. Discovery Communications also reduced the size of its ad sales unit.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.