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Univision hires Randy Falco, former AOL and NBC executive

Randy Falco will oversee all of Univision's business functions in a newly created executive position at the Spanish-language network. He was thought to be in line for a job at NBC.

January 19, 2011|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times

Univision Communications Inc. bolstered its executive ranks on Tuesday by hiring Randy Falco, a longtime television executive known for his operational skills.

Falco, former chief executive of AOL and former president of the NBC Universal Television Group, has been named to the newly created position of executive vice president and chief operating officer of Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language media company. He will oversee all business functions — advertising, marketing, research and corporate development — and report to Univision CEO Joe Uva.

Univision's hiring of Falco was something of a surprise because some thought his relationship with Comcast Corp. might pave the way for his return to NBC. Falco has been an informal consultant to Comcast as it planned its takeover of NBC Universal. Falco spent 31 years at NBC, where he steadily moved up the ranks and oversaw the revenue-generating side of the company's sprawling empire, including its Spanish-language network Telemundo.

Falco most recently was chairman and chief executive of AOL Inc., which he exited nearly two years ago. Before joining AOL, he had been in line for the top job at NBC, but he left in 2006 when it became clear that Jeff Zucker would get the nod.

The move by Univision signals that Uva and the company's board — headed by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban — want to strengthen its executive bench after a turbulent four-year period that began when the company went private in a highly leveraged buyout that left it saddled with debt.

During the last two years, the company has navigated through the recession despite a downturn in advertising revenue and fears that Univision might default on its loans. The company fended off a legal challenge from its longtime Mexican programming partner, Grupo Televisa, and restructured its debt. Last fall, the New York-based company removed another barrier by forming a new partnership with Televisa that guarantees that Univision retains the exclusive rights to Televisa's hugely popular telenovelas for at least a decade.

"We have proven our mettle, working ourselves out of a difficult situation," Uva said in an interview. "It's now time to work on capturing our growth potential and Randy is going to help us with that in a big way. We have very ambitious growth plans ahead of us."

The company expects the results of the 2010 census to demonstrate the importance of the Latino population in the U.S., and Univision's dominance serving the market. Uva said the company would benefit from the experience of Falco, who was a key architect of NBC's expansion, including its 2004 acquisition of Universal Studios and lucrative cable channels, as well as negotiating the acquisition of TV rights to Olympics games. Corporate development, Uva said, will be one of Falco's top priorities.

"I have long admired Univision — a pioneer in the industry — and recognized the tremendous potential and influence of the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic population," Falco said in a statement. "I look forward to working alongside Univision's exceptional team as we work to further realize the substantial growth potential of this dynamic organization."

meg.james@latimes.com

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