“To hit the next level” of the company’s growth, which began in 2014, Seven Mountains Media CEO Kristin Cantrell began a search for a Chief Operations Officer “that could accelerate the vision” of a company that was comprised of 35 radio stations across 5 markets.
In October 2018, “7MM” lured the radio chairman of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and the last President/CEO of WBEB-FM in Philadelphia under Jerry Lee’s ownership to take the role.
Now, Jim Loftus is exiting the Kentucky-headquartered company that during his tenure grew to 14 markets and 152 stations and today is the dominant media company in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania.
Loftus is going back to company he spent nine years as COO earlier in his career. Only, this time he will take the reins as Chief Executive Officer as he tells RBR+TVBR that he’s accepted the position at Times-Shamrock Communications.
He will succeed Jim Lewandowski, who is CEO of Times-Shamrock and of Elk Lake Capital, described by Lewandowski as a family owned private equity firm “focused exclusively on control-investment opportunities in private entrepreneurial companies.” This includes equity interest in Environmental Services Laboratories Inc., Environmental Land Surveying and Solutions, Flying Fish Brewing Co. and Times-Shamrock Outdoor.
Speaking with RBR+TVBR, Loftus shared how Lewandowski opted to depart as CEO of the Lynett-Haggerty family operation after a 10-year run, and after newspapers including the Scranton Times-Tribune were sold in August to Alden Global Capital-controlled MediaNews Group.
With the opportunity open, Loftus gave it consideration, and ultimately was named as Lewandowski’s successor. The key difference: Times-Shamrock, moving forward, will be a business exclusively focused on Radio and digital OOH.
“I was their COO for 9 1/2 years and they’ve been in Radio for over 100 years,” Loftus says. “They received an award from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters in 2022 because they began ownership in Scranton in 1922. We researched it and found that they were the only owners in the state that have owned their stations the whole time (KDKA was signed on by Westinghouse in Pittsburgh and is today an Audacy Inc. station). Times-Shamrock is a true dyed-in-the-wool radio company.”
For Loftus, a Scrantonian, the job is also a full circle moment. He listened to WEZX-FM “Rock 107” as a kid, and during his senior year of high school on a job interview. Interestingly, didn’t get the job. Later, in 1977, Loftus was hired as a GM. “It’s a wonderful company, with the fifth-generation of family members overseeing it,” he says of Times-Shamrock. “They are great people and I look forward to helping to lead them into the future.”
Asked to share his thoughts on his five years at 7 Mountains, which he joined on Nov. 1, 2018, Loftus adds, “[CEO] Kristin Cantrell is just a dynamo; just fantastic.” He adds that “7MM” is reviewing all of its options regarding Loftus’ replacement. “Over the last five years we’ve really hard on developing the team we had, and to attract, train and retain staff. The corporate leadership is just fantastic.”
Given the growth of 7MM during Loftus’ time at the company, could Times-Shamrock be in a position to add additional stations and/or markets? Loftus declined to comment, as he’s not starting his new role until Jan. 1, 2024. However, he did note that Times-Shamrock is a “very different operation,” with entrenched radio stations its calling card.
In Northeast Pennsylvania, the Wilkes Barre-Scranton brands owned by Times-Shamrock include not only “Rock 107” but also Hot Adult Contemporary WQFM and the market’s ESPN Radio affiliate.
The company also is the licensee of Milwaukee Radio Alliance members WLDB “B93.3” and WLUM-FM 102.1, heritage Adult Contemporary and Alternative stations, and Adult Hits WZTI-AM “The Fonz”; and standalone Classic Rocker WZBA-FM 100.7/W261CD at 100.1 MHz in Baltimore.
Loftus’ resume includes a decade spent as a VP/GM of CBS Radio’s WOGL and WYSP in Philadelphia and as GSM for the company’s former six-station cluster; he took that job in 2005, and from 1997-2005 was Times-Shamrock COO. He has also served as VP/Market Manager for Susquehanna Radio’s Scranton-Wilkes Barre station group, joining the stations in late 1992. Until then, he served as Director of Sales for WUSL-FM “Power 99.” He’s also worked at legendary Top 40 WFIL-AM in Philadelphia.