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Radio CFO Big Leaps to Wireless Hot Seat

CBS's Walter Berger takes up with Leap Wireless months after the company became entangled in a financial mess.
Stephen TaubJune 19, 2008

CBS Radio finance boss Walter Berger is leaping to a wireless communications vendor that is trying to right itself after filing erroneous financials for more than three years.

His new employer is Leap Wireless International, which investment website describes as providing discount services targeted at customers with poor credit ratings who don’t qualify for the larger national carrier plans. Berger’s new job as Leap’s executive vice president and CFO starts June 23.

Leap CEO Doug Hutcheson will hand over the interim finance oversight he had assumed after Amin Khalifa resigned last September, two months before the company announced the accounting errors and consequent restatements.

Berger, who has more than 30 years of finance and accounting experience, was in charge of not only CBS Radio’s finance, accounting, and internal controls functions, but also technology and the unit’s new media and integrated marketing businesses.

“Walter is a seasoned executive who will strengthen Leap’s executive team and who brings a solid background of corporate finance and operational experience to support our financial strategy and growth initiatives,” said Hutcheson. “His outstanding reputation in the Wall Street community, and his proven track record of growing businesses while managing complex capital structures and strategic transactions, will benefit Leap and its shareholders as we continue on our path to once again double the size of our business over the next three years.”

Before joining CBS Radio in 2006, Berger was CFO and a director of Emmis Communications.

Khalifa had resigned as Leap’s CFO while the company was mulling an unsolicited takeover bid from MetroPCS Communications, which is in the same business as Leap. MetroPCS withdrew its offer two months later.

Last November Leap said it would restate its financials for fiscal years 2004 through 2006 and for the first two quarters of 2007 to correct errors in service revenues, equipment revenues, and operating expenses. The company said the restatements were the result of an internal review of service revenue activity and forecasting processes and not because of employee misconduct.

For example, the company said it had “mistakenly” recorded approximately one month of deferred revenue for customers who had disconnected their service. Another error had to do with the reconciliation of billing-system data with pay from overdue customers, resulting in overstated revenue since 2004.

Leap also said it needed to reclassify some of its revenues and costs on a gross basis. The company had been offsetting approximately $120 million of revenue from equipment sales against the cost of equipment on a net basis.

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