Sandra Cordova Micek, a brand-building corporate marketing executive with no experience as a broadcaster, has been named president and CEO of the parent company of public television WTTW-Channel 11 and classical radio WFMT 98.7-FM.
Micek, 48, a Wilmette resident, most recently was senior vice president of global brands for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. She previously held marketing positions with USA Today, NBC Universal, Yahoo! and Turner Broadcasting Sales. She also was a management consultant with Accenture.
Her appointment to head the non-profit Window to the World Communications Inc., effective May 1, culminates a 10-month search for a successor to Daniel Schmidt, who held the job for 19 years. Micek’s hiring was announced Thursday at the company’s board of trustees meeting.
“After a diligent and thoughtful search, we are pleased to have found the best individual to lead this outstanding public media organization,” board chairman James W. Mabie said in a statement. “Micek is a seasoned executive with a proven track record of success across a wide range of media and industries. Her entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and ability to have a meaningful impact will help us to grow and evolve. We believe that she is uniquely qualified to lead WWCI successfully into the future.”
The search process, led by a board committee and aided by Blinkhorn LLC, a Connecticut-based executive recruiting firm, involved no input from the public and little from employees. The company has retained Grisko LLC, the Chicago public relations agency, to handle media related to Micek's appointment.
In 2014, Blinkhorn brought Goli Sheikholeslami, another executive with no background in broadcasting, to WBEZ 91.5-FM parent company Chicago Public Media as president and CEO. Grisko also handled media for Sheikholeslami.
Micek takes over a company desperately in need of a creative infusion and organizational shakeup after two decades of languishing under Schmidt. In 2014 a citizens group called Fix Channel 11 protested the renewal of Schmidt’s contract, saying that under his leadership the station “has not lived up to its potential as a local player for a long time,” and calling on management and trustees “to commit to changing directions and their assumptions about its future.”
On the radio side, WFMT has been without an executive vice president and general manager since Steve Robinson retired in 2016. In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, the commercial classical music station tied for 31st place among listeners between 25 and 54 with a 0.5 percent audience share.
As president and CEO, Micek “will leverage a deep understanding of consumer insights to work with the team to develop creative and proactive multi-platform strategies for WTTW and WFMT that actively demonstrate a commitment to the mission of providing diverse perspectives, accessibility, innovation, community engagement and education,” according to the announcement of her hiring.
“This is an exciting time for WTTW and WFMT and I am incredibly honored to be taking on the president and CEO role for WWCI,” Micek said in a statement. “It is a privilege to be a part of an organization committed to creating and presenting innovative, quality content. I hope to leverage my experience in business strategy, cross-platform media and audience building to successfully lead the organization.
"This role uniquely taps into my passions for the arts and humanities, life-long learning and public affairs. I look forward to working with the talented team to engage diverse audiences and communities in Chicago and beyond,” she said.
Micek earned a bachelor’s degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and holds an MBA from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Reese Marcusson, who has been serving as acting CEO of Window to the World Communications, is expected to return to his previous role as chief operating officer and chief financial officer.