Univision is announcing layoffs this morning, the next major step in the Hispanic media giant’s complete makeover. Numbers are not specified in the company-wide memo, but a source close to the company tells Deadline 6% of jobs will be eliminated. Before the reductions, the company had a workforce of about 4,000 people, meaning the ranks of the departed will number about 250.
Vince Sadusky, who succeeded Randy Falco as CEO in June, said in a memo to employees (read it below) that he is implementing a return to basics after the company pursued “many experiments” during the Falco regime. “One of the benefits of coming into a company with fresh eyes is that it is easier to have a clear look at these efforts without emotion and history,” he said. “In doing so, it became clear to me that many of these new ideas had eaten up a disproportionate part of our resources, whereas some of our most core activities had been significantly under-resourced.”
In a statement, the company offered more context for the layoffs and the plan to refocus on what the company called its “core mission” of serving the U.S. Hispanic community.
“We have concluded a company-wide strategic review aimed at reorienting our operations to ensure we are positioned to most effectively compete in an evolving media marketplace,” the statement said. “We are implementing a plan to rejuvenate and re-energize the company with a re-dedication to our core mission of serving the U.S. Hispanic community. As part of this plan we are both reducing our workforce in various divisions around the company, as well as adding resources and capabilities to strengthen our core business. While it is extremely difficult to lose valued employees, we are confident that our actions – along with our previously-announced process to explore the sale of the Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion portfolio – will enable us to focus on and invest in our core assets, which is necessary to ensure we remain the leading and unwavering voice, advocate and source of information for the Hispanic community.”
Already this summer, three senior executives have followed Falco out the door: Chief Revenue Officer Tonia O’Connor, Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee and programming chief Lourdes Diaz. The company also said it is shopping a portfolio of websites acquired in recent years as a signature feature of Falco’s vision among them The Onion, the Root and the Gizmodo Network.
Restlessness has set in at the privately held media company in recent months, leading to the makeover. Seeing regular ratings wins by resurgent rival Telemundo (once an also-ran) and a host of other secular challenges, investors gradually became impatient with the strategy implemented by Falco, a longtime former NBC executive. Plans for an IPO were abruptly scrapped, and the company also engaged a consultant to review operations and identify areas where expenses could be trimmed.
In 2007, Univision was taken private in a $13.7 billion transaction involving a collection of private equity firms, among them Saban Capital Group, TPG, Thomas H. Lee, Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners.
Here is the full memo from Sadusky to employees:
Dear Univision Team,
As most of you know, I have taken the last six weeks since joining our great company to meet as many of you as possible, in teams and individually, to understand our strengths and weaknesses, our opportunities and risks, our structure and organization, and most importantly our core asset – all of you. It has been a great experience. I have learned a lot and have much more to learn and many more of you to meet. Through my meetings, which also included TV and digital leaders outside of our company, I have been focused on developing our go-forward strategy, which I presented to our Board of Directors last week. I am pleased to say we have the full support of the Board to drive our plan forward.
Importantly, I have heard from many of you that there is considerable anxiety over the UCI 20/20 transformation plan. Every large media company is forced from time to time to reassess its position in the market, its structure, its employee base, and its focus, to make sure it can compete at the highest levels against strong competitors. We are no exception. That said, it was clear to me the proposed UCI 20/20 plan was more focused on costs than it was on making sure the company is reoriented towards its greatest opportunities. UCI has tried many experiments over the last several years to find new paths of growth. Some have worked, some have not. One of the benefits of coming into a company with fresh eyes is that it is easier to have a clear look at these efforts without emotion and history. In doing so, it became clear to me that many of these new ideas had eaten up a disproportionate part of our resources, whereas some of our most core activities had been significantly under-resourced.
I also reviewed feedback from our Hispanic community partners who had questions about Univision’s evolution. Given the unique role we play in our community, it was important to me that we listen to those who believe in our mission and represent our core audiences. I took to heart their concerns that any changes Univision undertook not diminish our news capability, especially in the cities and towns we serve, ensure we continue our philanthropic and community engagement, and provide professional development opportunities for our diverse workforce.
As such, in lieu of the UCI 20/20 plan, today we are announcing a plan designed to rejuvenate and reenergize the company with a rededication to our core mission of serving the US Hispanic community. This does not mean that cuts are not coming – over the next several days there will indeed be some cuts across the company, and some of our friends and dedicated colleagues will unfortunately no longer have a role at UCI. While it is extremely difficult to lose valued employees, I want you to be assured that our goal here is not to simply strip resources across the company but rather to redirect resources to make us stronger where we need to be stronger.
The first step in this process was announced two weeks ago with our intent to sell our English-language digital assets. Conversely, we will be putting fresh resources into Local Content and Sales, Spanish-language Digital Sales, Business Development, and many other areas. We will continue our investments in the Hispanic community, build out the Univision Foundation, and inform and empower our audiences in such areas as education, health, diversity, and civic engagement. You can also be assured that our commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace has never been stronger.
We will also be instituting a performance-based culture where everyone succeeds on their own merits, knows exactly what they are being compensated for, and has more control over the things that drive their business. This is not a plan where senior people are spared at the expense of more junior people, it is not a plan where New York is favored over Miami or vice versa, and it is not a plan where the rules apply to some people but not others.
While there will be some difficult days ahead as the organization adjusts to these changes, I hope you will join me in wishing those colleagues who will be leaving us the best in their future endeavors and in thanking them for their service. I have personally met and will continue to meet with some of our colleagues who are leaving us. Most of us will work for more than one company in our careers and it is important for me to have good industry friends in media supporting the Univision team.
For the rest of us, I sincerely believe that this is a new launching off place for what is one of the truly great franchises in American media. We are a great company but like all great companies we sometimes lose our focus and our swagger. That changes today. After all, every single day we are one of the top-rated broadcasters in America, we deliver more live content than our competitors, and every year more original content than any broadcaster. We have more live viewing than virtually any other linear network, a tremendous year-round sports franchise, and simply put we have audience engagement and a brand affinity that is stronger than any network I can think of. We need to go forward with a clear mission, a clear performance-based structure, and a level of confidence worthy of our unique position. Whether you are in content or sales, digital or support, I am looking for a renewed sense of purpose and renewed energy for our mission. Our best days are still ahead, and I look forward to working together to deliver on our opportunity.
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