Entercom’s bruising loss yesterday in a Sacramento courtroom provides the first real check on the long-oversized ego of CEO David Field. At this point, whether he’s actually accepted defeat or is merely reconfiguring his legal team is anyone’s guess.
His track record suggests the latter, sadly.
The WRKO-WEEI owner (NYSE:ETM) lost big in a civil suit filed by radio contest victim Jennifer Strange’s family, with the jury taking a seeming eternity to reach a verdict. In hindsight, it appears they spent much of the time determining the dollar amount of the reward.
She had taken part in a contest to see who could drink the most without going to the toilet, to win a Nintendo Wii.
She lost, and a few hours later died of acute water intoxication.
Water intoxication can occur when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is altered by a rapid intake of water.
This can eventually cause the brain to swell, stopping it regulating vital functions such as breathing, and causing death.
In the competition – “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” – contestants were given 225-ml bottles to drink every 15 minutes without going to the toilet.
After eight rounds, contestants drank half-litre bottles.
Ms Strange is believed to have drunk nearly two gallons (7.5 litres) in the hope of winning the games console for her children.
During the trial, KDND-FM and its owner, Entercom, argued that Ms Strange should have known the contest might be dangerous.
The organisers did not face criminal charges, but 10 employees of the radio station were sacked.
That’s right- Entercom, a company built on legalistic bullying, attempted to blame the victim for her own death. And rather than take responsibility for the actions of his firm, Field immediately blamed and sacked those below him.
It’s a teachable moment for all of us: there are people in this world who truly have no moral compass and David Field provides today’s case study. Unfortunately, he still oversees several radio stations in our region.
ADDENDUM: Entercom’s corporate spin revolves around the idea that only the Sacramento subsidiary, Entercom Sacramento LLC, was found liable, not its corporate parent.
While technically true, it’s an act of PR desperation to pretend the local operation is somehow separate from company headquarters in Pennsylvania. It’s a disturbing sign that Field may have learned nothing from this incident regarding personal and corporate responsibility.
Entercom shares traded down almost 10% today.