Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ex-Cablevision COO New Charter Cable CEO

It must have taken a lot to cause Tom Rutledge to finally leave the roost at Cablevision and to quickly turn up at Charter Cable. And one has to wonder when his right hand man, John Bickham, will once again turn up at his side. As they say, third time is the charm, right.

But what caused Rutledge to so quickly depart from Cablevision after almost a decade of service? So far I have heard a few possibilities. One is that as a family business owned by the Dolans, the COO position was the highest role he could attain on the ladder. He simply isn't "family", unless he married into it. And with the programming networks, AMC and MSG, sold off, he had less to control. Perhaps Charter's offer of a CEO role and more "ownership" was compelling.

Another possibility brewing was that there was a big fight internally and a riff that made dealing with the Dolan's more difficult. Another newspaper has speculated that Rutledge was fighting with Jim Dolan's wife, Kristen, a marketing executive on the senior team. If true, I can only say that family and business never mixes well. But I personally find it unlikely that this is the cause of his departure. They have worked together from the beginning and it is hard to believe that any disagreement would have caused Rutledge to walk away. It just doesn't seem like his personality.

And the third possibility is that Cablevision has quietly been exploring a sale to another cable operator and Rutledge's days would be numbered if he stayed. That seems especially true if the new owner would be Time Warner Cable, the company he was at before joining Cablevision. That John Bickham also left a month earlier seems to put more credibility into this third scenario. Should Bickham actually join Rutledge at Charter Cable, I think that is more proof that this possibility has validity.

The truth will continue to emerge in the coming days and weeks. Rutledge has been described as a strong leader and he certainly led Cablevision to great success under his tenure. His hiring at Charter spells great potential for them to finally emerge as a cable leader. Despite being larger than Cablevision in number of subscribers, Charter lacks a clear center, both geographically and managerially. A Rutledge led team is good news for Charter's future.

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