Those who know Fred Reynolds well say he has all the attributes needed to captain the battleship known as the CBS Television Stations Division.
He’s got the smarts, the deal-maker’s drive, the stamina and the sense of humor. And he knows how to play-and capitalize on-both of his parent companies.
Mr. Reynolds wasn’t talking about his new job last week after the executive switch that brought Richard Bressler in from AOL Time Warner to take his old job as Viacom’s chief financial officer. Mr. Reynolds, who said he wanted to move to California, will stay with the company as president of the Los Angeles-headquartered division that consists of 16 CBS and 19 UPN stations.
CBS Television President and CEO Les Moonves, to whom Mr. Reynolds will report, ticked off numerous reasons why Mr. Reynolds is the perfect man to plot a course toward improvement for an underperfoming station group in tough economic times.
“He knows everybody on the CBS team very well,” Mr. Moonves said. “He’s worked with all of us. He’s part of my staff meeting every week. So whether it’s news or sports or sales, he knows that.” Mr. Moonves said Mr. Reynolds was the architect of the deal that brought syndication powerhouse King World Productions into the CBS family.
“And in addition, he does know the MTV guys and the Paramount guys,” Mr. Moonves said. “He knows where all the bodies are buried in Viacom and how 1 plus 1 can equal 3 here, which it is doing again and again and again.”
PaineWebber analyst Christopher Dixon said, “We believe that in addition to the strength he brings to overseeing the station operations, he will serve as a new set of ears for Viacom’s East Coast-based management team for the most cash-intensive West Coast operations.”
Mr. Reynolds also represents a willing set of eyes. He loves the process of screening and discussing new programming and revels in the pilot season that can render others bleary-eyed.
The appointment of Mr. Reynolds ended months of speculation about the search for a successor to John Severino, who had doubled as general manager of KCBS-TV since taking over the CBS-owned stations nearly two years ago.
One of the names most frequently bandied about was Kevin O’Brien, longtime general manager of Cox’s KTVU-TV in Oakland, Calif. Mr. O’Brien, who’d been passed over when Andrew Fisher was appointed executive vice president of Cox Television and its 11 stations, said last week that he’s leaving Cox when his contract is up in December.
Mr. O’Brien denied he’d had any conversations with CBS and said he wants a new challenge. “It’s time to do something different … I’m more of a builder than a sustainer,” he said.
Mr. Moonves said he expects no “massive changes” early in Mr. Reynolds’ tenure. “He’s going to explore all sorts of possibilities. Some parts are working better than other parts. I think he’s going to look at personnel, but there is no direct intent to make wholesale changes right away.
The CBS chief also said there’s no list of candidates who might eventually take the KCBS-TV reins from Mr. Severino.
“Our relationship with Sev is great,” Mr. Moonves said. “[We have] no regrets about what he did. He really was a good soldier when we needed him.”