Joe Uva Steps Down as President and CEO of Univision

Issue 53 - TOC: Joe Uva
Dorothy Hong

Executive chairman Haim Saban will take on added responsibilities while the Spanish-language media giant searches for a replacement.

NEW YORK - Univision Communications said Monday that Joe Uva has decided to leave his posts as president and CEO and look for other opportunities.

In a statement, the company said Uva had tendered his resignation with the company's board. His departure will become effective upon the end of his current employment contract on April 2. Executive chairman Haim Saban will take on added responsibilities while the company searches for a replacement.

It was not immediately clear what drove Uva's decision. He wasn't available for comment beyond a statement.

Given that Saban has lauded Uva's work in the past and there was no known friction, some observers suggested that Uva may have simply decided that this was the right time to depart based on his team's success in reducing the firm's debt and getting it through the recession in addition to a focus on boosting ratings and advertising revenue.

Some suggested that maybe he was ready to leave likely future focus areas for the company to others. For example, to the private equity groups that have owned Univision -- Saban's Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners -- the company recently added Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa as a new investor and expanded a content partnership with the company. The partners are now looking to exploit what they have lauded as a key opportunity for both companies.

There has also been market chatter over the past year that some of the private equity owners may look for an IPO of the Spanish-language media giant to allow some of the investors to reduce or exit their investment. The private equity owners had brought in Uva as part of their buyout that took Univision private in 2007.

The news of Uva’s departure follows a mid-January announcement that former NBC and AOL boss Randy Falco would become Univision’s chief operating officer. While the company declined to comment on potential internal and external CEO candidates on Monday, Falco is seen as a likely candidate from within given his experience. At least one Wall Street observer suggested that Televisa may want input on the new CEO as well.

“On behalf of the Univision board of directors, we would like to commend Joe for his tremendous contributions over the past four years," Saban said. "Univision is a better company today due to Joe’s efforts in building a strong leadership team and positioning Univision for long-term success. Univision’s business is strong, and the entire management team remains focused on delivering value to its customers and stakeholders."

Said Uva: “My four years as president and CEO of Univision have been extremely exciting and rewarding." He added: "Although I will miss working with the many talented professionals at Univision, the team is strong and I have decided the time is right for me to capitalize on other opportunities."

Despite a challenging couple of years at Univision, care of a weakened advertising market and a recently resolved battle with Mexican telenovela provider Grupo Televisa, the growth opportunity for an established player in the U.S. Hispanic market is vast. In fact, the company’s prime-time TV offerings have out-rated those of its broadcast competitors ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in the advertiser-beloved 18 to 49 demo on multiple occasions care of popular series including Soy Tu Duena and Hasta Que El Dinero Nos Separe.

Univision is the top-rated Spanish language broadcaster averaging 1.9 million viewers in primetime this season among the advertiser targeted demographic of 18-49-year-olds. But it has also been gaining on its English-language competitors. Univision is up 6 percent season-to-date in the demo, while NBC is down 15 percent, ABC is down 10 percent, CBS is down 8 percent and Fox is down 6 percent. And the network is also attracting more of the younger viewers advertisers crave; on Friday nights in February, Univision was the top-rated network in the 18-34 demo. 

It was not immediately clear what kind of new challenges Uva may seek. He is a former CEO of advertising giant Omnicom Group's OMD Worldwide.