Farid Suleman, chief executive of Viacom Inc.'s Infinity radio division and a longtime lieutenant to Viacom President Mel Karmazin, resigned Wednesday to become chief executive of radio group Citadel Communications Corp.
The move appeared to jibe with Wall Street's belief that Karmazin may depart the company when his contract expires next year. Karmazin, the former CBS CEO who gained operating control of Viacom in May 2000, has been locked in a management dispute with Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.
Karmazin will assume Suleman's duties. Infinity Radio President Dan Mason will continue to oversee the 186-station division's day-to-day operations, Viacom said.
Suleman said his new job represents a "wonderful entrepreneurial opportunity" and dismissed suggestions that his departure is linked to the management dispute. He also will become a special limited partner in the New York leveraged buyout firm Forstmann Little & Co., which owns Citadel.
In the event Karmazin stays on, radio insiders suggested, Suleman's move could position Infinity to acquire Citadel if regulators permit additional consolidation of the radio industry. Karmazin has said Viacom is primarily interested in dominating large media markets. Citadel's stations are predominantly in mid-size cities.
Viacom shares rose 96 cents to close at $43.34 on the New York Stock Exchange.