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Is K-LOVE imploding? Lawsuits and leadership turmoil at $1 billion network

Educational Media Foundation (EMF), which operates K-LOVE and Air1, the largest radio network ministries in the contemporary Christian music world, has undergone significant leadership changes and turnover in the last 18 months.

The ministry has gone through two CEOs, and several other key executives left last summer.

Bill Reeves was brought in as CEO in 2019 and departed in March 2023. He has now landed as CEO at David C. Cook publishing.

On May 15, Todd Woods, who replaced Reeves as CEO of EMF, announced his resignation. Todd Stultz, EMF board chair, will serve as interim CEO.

EMF did not provide reasons for either of the CEO departures in its announcements.

Last summer, several more executives quickly left the radio ministry.

Chief Financial Officer David Atkinson, worked for EMF for 25 years and retired in July 2023.

Janet Cherry, chief transition officer, also left in July 2023 and has started a consulting firm.

Michael McCall, former chief engagement officer, left in August 2023 and has moved to Hope Media as chief of donor engagement.

Former Chief Information Officer Christopher Barron, who worked in that capacity from April 2018 until July 2023, is now chief technology officer at Our Daily Bread.

Kristina Miller (now Gomez after her wedding in April), worked at EMF for 16 years before departing in January 2024.

READ: K-LOVE employee embezzled funds

Executives aren’t the only ones who have left EMF. Well-known radio personality Skip Mahaffey, who hosted a morning show on K-Love for seven years, also left in August 2023 to become the director of programming operations at Pillar Media in Cincinnati, RadioInk reported.

In addition, turnover has impacted the board of directors. On March 25, EMF’s board chairperson Donna Ecton sued Todd Woods and other members of the board, including Jerry Shirer, Todd Stultz, and Mark Brannon, for removing her from the position of chairperson purportedly without cause.

“When Plaintiff requested information or an explanation as to why she was being removed, the other five directors refused to provide any such information or explanation. Plaintiff has thus not only suffered unjustified embarrassment to her professional reputation but also has been prevented from defending herself, contributing to the boards’ decision-making regarding her removal, and continuing to serve religious nonprofits that she cherishes,” the lawsuit reads.

Woods allegedly advocated for the removal of two of the other Director Defendants from the boards of EMF and K-LOVE, Shirer and Brannon, according to Ecton’s complaint.

Ecton’s attorney, Gino Bulso, says the two sides have reached a settlement, and a motion for the court to approve the settlement was filed June 7.

Bulso did not disclose the terms of the settlement and would not answer whether Ecton will be restored to her position as board chairperson.

MinistryWatch reached out to several of the executives about their departure, but most either did not respond or would not comment.

EMF spokesperson Bethany Davis told MinistryWatch that “a number of these exits were due to the relocation of our headquarters from California to Tennessee, retirement, regular turnover, or a shift in direction, as well as personal reasons,” adding that none were for inappropriate behavior or illegal activities.

According to the most recent MinistryWatch survey of Christian ministry executives, 21% of those who use nondisclosure agreements use them as part of severance or settlement agreements.

A large number of executives leaving near the same time may be a result of unrealistic expectations of the board or the leadership style of the CEO, according to Bruce Dingman, a long-time executive recruiter for Christian ministries.

There are many consequences of high executive turnover, including the cost of replacing those positions. Dingman said the search for a replacement usually takes about six months and costs a minimum of $50,000 plus travel expenses.

Having vacant leadership roles can decrease employee morale and productivity, destabilize an organization, and create siloed team players, he added.

Davis said EMF’s board is “confident in [its leadership] team and the direction of the Ministry, which just launched a three-year strategic plan to reach new audiences for Jesus.”

Part of the strategic plan “calls for enhanced leadership development programs and extra care for team members who experience the burnout that can often occur in full time ministry,” Davis added.

According to the most recent numbers available to MinistryWatch, EMF has over $1 billion in assets and over $100 million in total liabilities. Those numbers have grown substantially since 2018 as has EMF’s revenue.

In 2018, it had revenue of $189 million and in 2022, its revenue was over $238 million, exceeding its expenses by almost $73 million.

–Kim Roberts | MinistryWatch | Used with permission.

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