Published on Friday, 14 September 2012 11:00
CBS Television has made a big change in its executive ranks, which has a major impact on five local television stations across the country -- two in San Fransisco, one in Seattle, and two here in Chicago. Locally, WBBM-TV President and General Manager Bruno Cohen exits, to take a job elsewhere for CBS, while WGN-TV's Vice President and General Manager Marty Wilke exits her job to soon join CBS and take over Cohen's.
In San Francisco yesterday, KPIX-TV President and General Manager Ron Longinotti was forced out. Today, CBS-TV announced that Bruno Cohen will succeed him. In his new role, Cohen will retain his title and now oversee the CBS-owned stations in San Francisco (KPIX-TV and KBCW-TV) and Seattle (KSTW-TV).
Mark "Bruno" Cohen had been with Chicago's WBBM-TV since October 2008, coming to town after having success running two CBS stations in Sacramento, CA for four years. He was picked to succeed Joe Ahern, who left the station in a ratings, budget, and morale mess.
In his almost four years in Chicago, the CBS-owned station has seen mixed results and an overall improvement from when Cohen arrived. Some experiments, such as the ill-fated "Monsters & Money In The Morning" program and the reunion of the one-time top-rated news anchor team of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson, did not see the results that were hoped for. Other experiments, including the creation of the new anchor team of Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan, have increased ratings and have the station poised to have future successes. Budget woes and low morale issues have also been fixed since the Joe Ahern days, although to accomplish those tasks, many cuts had to take place. In Cohen's new role out West, he will have to correct many of the same issues once again.
This is a return home for Cohen, who is a native of the San Fransisco area.
In one of a few statements issued today, CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn said today: "This is a great day for CBS. WBBM has experienced a renaissance under Bruno's leadership and is enjoying its best success in more than 20 years. The station is moving in an exciting direction, thanks in large part to a lot of hard work by Bruno and his colleagues. While we love having Bruno in Chicago, we have an even greater need for his talent and experience in San Francisco and Seattle."
In a separate statement, Dunn said of Cohen: "Given his long track record of success, great leadership skills and experience in Northern California, Bruno is ideally suited to work with the talented and successful teams we have in place in San Francisco and Seattle and help us raise the bar even higher."
Bruno Cohen today said in a statement: "I'm excited about this new assignment and honored by Peter's and CBS's confidence in me. The staff at WBBM is doing an exceptional job. I'll miss them and the City of Chicago. But I look forward to returning to the Bay Area - the place where I grew up, where my sons were born and where I had such a wonderful experience at KPIX."
Replacing Cohen will be Chicago suburban native Marty Wilke. Effective October 1st, she takes over as the new President and General Manager of WBBM-TV.
Wilke has been with WGN-TV since December 1996 when she started as a local account executive. From that simple role, she worked her way up to Local Sales Manager in 2001 and then named Director of Sales in 2002. (There was a two year break from WGN-TV in that time period, when Wilke worked as Local Sales Manager for WMAQ-TV, before returning in 2001.) In July 2009, Marty Wilke was named as Interim General Manager at WGN-TV, replacing Tom Ehlmann, who exited suddenly during the CEO Randy Michaels era. Two months later, the "Interim" tag was removed and Wilke was named as Vice President and General Manager for WGN-TV. In April 2010, she also took over oversight of cable sister-station, CLTV, and did the same with Antenna TV in January 2011.
Prior to joining Tribune Broadcasting in a sales role, Wilke worked at various advertising agencies.
A native of Downers Grove, IL, Wilke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from DePaul University in 1986. She sits on the Dean's Advisory Council at DePaul's College of Communications, is a board member of the Illinois Broadcasters Association, and has memberships in the Media Advertising Club of Chicago, The Chicago Network, and Chicago Automobile Trade Association.
Bruno Cohen spoke well of his successor, saying today: "Marty is a terrific executive and I have no doubt that CBS 2 will continue to grow under her leadership."
CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn said today: "We are fortunate to have found a terrific successor in Marty, who has spent her entire life in the Chicago area, understands the intricacies of the market and has earned a great reputation as a skilled operator during her many years at WGN. We are excited to welcome Marty to the CBS family and look forward to having her work with the great team of people we have at WBBM to drive even more growth and success in the months and years ahead."
In an internal memo sent just to CBS 2 Chicago employees, Dunn said of Wilke: "I have known Marty for many years, going back to when she worked for WMAQ. Like so many other people in our business, I have long admired her leadership abilities and personality. I am confident that you will really enjoy working with her."
Nils Larsen, Tribune Broadcasting President issued a statement today, saying about his exiting VP/GM: "Marty Wilke has ably led this team since 2008, and we wish her well."
Wilke's surprise exit from Tribune Broadcasting comes as the company is being taken over by creditors from its long-running corporate bankruptcy and is rumored to be placed up for sale as soon as early next year. It also leaves WGN-TV, CLTV, and Antenna TV without leadership.
To fill that vacancy in the meantime and keep broadcasting operations flowing smoothly, Tribune Broadcasting is naming Steve Farber as the Interim General Manager. Fraber has worked closely with Wilke since 2009. He takes over Wilke's role effective immediately.
Farber is a veteran of the Chicago-based media company. He is currently the Vice President of Programming Operations for Tribune Broadcasting. He previously held the same title for WGN-TV. Prior to that, he spent many years overseeing CLTV as its General Manager, Director of Programming & Operations, and News Director.
Tribune Broadcasting President Nils Larsen said of Farber today: "He knows WGN-TV's staff extremely well and is very familiar with the station's operations. Steve is the perfect choice to step in now and lead the talented team at WGN-TV."
While WGN-TV and its parent company, Tribune Broadcasting are facing an uncertain future thanks to Tribune Company's bankruptcy and ownership woes, WBBM-TV is in excellent shape, with CBS Television looking as strong as it has in years and the local newscasts climbing in ratings and respect. Marty Wilke's major career move could not have been timed better for her.
CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn will be traveling to Chicago in a few days and spending some time here. He told the local staff in an email today: "I look forward to visiting Chicago next week and ask that you join me in thanking Bruno for all he has done during his four years in Chicago and also extend a warm welcome to Marty once she officially comes on board."