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Sinclair's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

BALTIMORE—The long-time chief executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group is going to Washington. David Smith, CEO since 1988 and chairman of the board since 1990, is becoming executive chairman to have more time to “become directly involved with public policy as it relates to the broadcast industry.” Concurrently, Smith will also exercise “direct oversight of the development, implementation and globalization of the Next Generation Broadcast Platform—ATSC 3.0—and expansion of [Sinclair’s] news franchise.”

Christopher Ripley, chief financial officer since 2014, moves into the CEO office and Lucy Rutishauser, formerly senior vice president of corporate finance and treasurer, becomes CFO. Wall Street said “OK.” Shares (NASDAQ:SBGI) had a bit of a boost this morning, rising around 80 cents before settling back down around $25, where they’ve hovered since last Friday. Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo predicted the Street would welcome the executive shuffle since Rutishauser and Ripley “have proven to be very effective leaders.”

Ripley will oversee and manage the company’s business and operations, and report to the board of directors. Rutishauser will have direct oversight of the company’s treasury, accounting, tax, finance, business intelligence and analytics, investor relations and corporate communications departments.

Under Smith, son of Sinclair founder Julian Smith, the company mushroomed from a few stations to the largest station group in the United States, with around 170 nationwide. The younger Smith’s tenure also ushered in the local marketing agreement, which allowed them to run their own stations and those owned by others in the same market. Smith also made Sinclair a national cable TV network operator with the $350 million purchase of Tennis Channel last January, and created a national news franchise last fall with the launch of the weekly Sunday morning “Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson.”

Smith is particularly bullish on the medium of broadcasting. He has pushed mobile television for two decades, and under his purview, Sinclair has become one of the leading proponents for ATSC 3.0, the first broadcast transmission standard that will enable two-day communications over broadcast airwaves. Sinclair has developed technology, conducted tests, hosted plugfests, worked directly with South Korean broadcasters and done demonstration broadcasts of ATSC 3.0 and its capability. The company most recently announced that it would spec out receivers to develop its own targeted audience metrics.

“My revised role allows me to focus on our most important assets: local and national news content, and the launch of the ‘Next-Gen’ Broadcast Platform and associated single frequency network, IP network infrastructure and user-data collection, which are expected to revolutionize the way television broadcasters transmit data and interface with end user consumers,” Smith said in a statement announcing the executive shift.

Ripley, who joined Sinclair in 2014, led the company’s spectrum auction strategy, oversaw the acquisition of the Tennis Channel, and “acquired/invested in strategic assets that allow the company to be multiplatformed.”

From 2013 until joining Sinclair, he was founder and managing partner of Canor LLC, a boutique media and entertainment advisory firm. He was previously managing director at UBS Investment Bank’s Global Media Group and served as head of the Los Angeles office; was a principal in Prime Ventures LLC; and worked in the investment banking division of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. Ripley graduated from the University of Western Ontario, Richard Ivey School of Business, with a Bachelor of Arts in Honors Business Administration. He holds Series 7 and Series 24 licenses.

Rutishauser served as treasurer since 2001, senior vice president of corporate finance since 2013 and vice president of corporate finance from 2002 to 2013. Prior to that, Rutishauser served in financial roles for Treasure Chest Advertising Co., Integrated Health Services, Inc., Laura Ashley, Inc. and the Black and Decker Corp. Rutishauser graduated magna cum laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Finance and received her Masters in Business Administration degree with honors from the University of Baltimore.