Liberty Media CEO Reassures On SiriusXM Host Howard Stern Re-Upping; Reports Softer Q3 For Atlanta Braves, Formula One

Howard Stern

Liberty Media CEO and SiriusXM chairman Greg Maffei said Thursday that the satellite broadcaster’s star host Howard Stern, whose contract ends this year, is likely to re-up and apologized that a recently announced top management reshuffle was handled too abruptly.

“I think we were surprised by the market reaction and maybe in hindsight we should have been smarter,” Maffei said on a conference call today. Liberty is the controlling shareholder of SiriusXM, which announced unexpectedly in mid-September that its highly regarded CEO Jim Meyer and longtime CFO David Frear were stepping down. Meyer was replaced by Jennifer Witz, head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, and Frear by former AMC Networks CFO Sean Sullivan.

It was a lot, Maffei said, to announce “the changing out the CEO and CFO at same time [with] the overhang of, ‘Is Howard going to sign.’ ”

The drama over Stern has been dragging on for months. Maffei reassured Wall Street on Thursday, just as Meyer has done up through what was his last SiriusXM earnings call last month.

“We don’t have a signed deal but most [commentary] suggests Howard is likely to re-sign and that is correct I think.” Of course, “I want to see the ink [on the contract]. And Howard has the right to make his own announcement.” Maffei said.

He called Meyer’s departure a “natural evolution” after eight years atop SiriusXM. He will stay on as vice chairman. Liberty owns 74% of SiriusXM.

Maffei was on a call with analysts to discuss Liberty’s third-quarter financials, where revenue fell to $2.7 billion from $2.8 billion. It swung to a net loss of $114 million from a profit of $193 million the year before.

John Malone’s Liberty is a holding company with assets that include a stake in Live Nation, the Atlanta Braves and Formula One, whose CEO Chase Carey is also departing but staying on as non-executive chairman. Stefano Domenicali, Lamborghini CEO, becomes the Formula One chief executive in 2021.

Formula One revenue fell 6% last quarter to $633 million and it swung to an operating loss of $104 million from a $44 million profit. It held 10 races in the quarter compared with seven the year before. Fans were in attendance, in reduced numbers, at one race.

At the Braves Group, revenue dropped to $110 million from $212 million on fewer games and no fans. It also swung to a loss – of $16 million — from a $21 million profit. The group owns the Atlanta Braves and six minor-league baseball clubs.

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