540: When the Whole is Greater | Lucy Rutishauser, CFO, Sinclair Broadcast Group

Listen to the Episode Below (00:34:00)

Like a savvy investor, Lucy Rutishauser built her early career by carefully tracking the activities of different companies. Sometimes, to glean better insights, she would actually cold-call a company and ask for the finance department. But Rutishauser wasn’t looking to invest money—instead, she was looking to invest that all-so-valuable commodity known as career-building years.

“The take-away here is that as you are growing your professional career and moving from job to job, it’s crucial that the decisions that you make be valuable to a future employer and not just great for your bank account at that moment,” says Rutishauser, who would join Sinclair Broadcast Group after placing just such a cold call back in 1998.

Providing some additional background on what led her to originally place the call, Rutishauser explains: “I had been reading about Sinclair rolling up the industry and driving industry consolidation. They were located here in Baltimore, which is where I live. I figured that they were probably going to need an assistant treasurer, so I cold-called them and created a job for myself.”

While Rutishauser had successfully identified a hiring hot spot inside Sinclair, she sensed that the growing company appreciated her willingness to open the door and take some initiative—and would perhaps be open to more job creation down the line. “I selected a job that filled gaps in my background because Sinclair, being a smaller company at the time, really let me do a lot more than what a traditional assistant treasurer would be doing,” she recalls. In 2016—nearly 18 years after she placed her cold call—Rutishauser entered Sinclair’s CFO office, where she has already helped the media company to open a new chapter of growth – one that only last month led Sinclair to triple in size. –Jack Sweeney

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Guest: Lucy Rutishauser

Company: Sinclair Broadcast Group

Headquarters: Hunt Valley, Cockeysville, MD

Connect: www.sbgi.net

CFOTL: Tell us about Sinclair and its path to new growth.

Rutishauser: Sinclair Broadcast Group is a diversified media company. We are one of the largest television broadcasters in the country, and we own or operate almost 200 TV stations in 89 cities. Actually, just a couple of weeks ago, we bought the largest portfolio of regional sports networks in the country. We now have 23 regional sports network brands. They air 45 Major League Baseball, NBA, and NHL games, including the iconic New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs. What sets us apart is really our unique leadership position in both local news and local sports. No other broadcaster is as diverse. I would say that certainly, with the regional sports network acquisition, we have a lot of transition and integration that we need to do from a systems, process, procedural, and cultural standpoint, and this will be no small feat.

Even though Sinclair did much of the consolidation on the TV broadcast side, this is our first venture into the regional sports network size. When we did this deal a couple of weeks ago, it almost tripled the size of our company. Now you have the smaller part of the organization trying to integrate with and absorb a larger company. Throughout the entire organization, this will be a big focus for us. We’re looking at how are we using budget in terms of compensation. Should we use budgets in that manner going forward? We’re very early on in those discussions. Risk management is a big one that we’re looking at. We have certain risk management functions that every company has, such as cyber insurance, for example. But here we’re looking to expand that to Foreign Corruptions Act (regulation), more cyber, even facilities risk management. So, this is a much more robust program that we are going to try to roll out. *

*This interview was conducted in September of 2019.