Cablevision, MSOs Defer Excite@Home Tiff

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The battle between Cablevision Systems Corp. and Excite@Home Corp. continues, with Excite@Home agreeing to postpone an earlier deal with AT & T Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. until after the resolution of Cablevision's full claims at trial.

Excite@Home also requested an expedited trial beginning Sept. 6. That date may be significant-according to the AT & T agreement, Cox, Comcast and AT & T can walk away from the deal after Sept. 30.

"We are delighted that Excite@Home, AT & T, Cox and Comcast agreed voluntarily to give us the restraining order that we were seeking from the court. This action ensures that our rights will be preserved," Cablevision executive vice president and general counsel Robert S. Lemle said in a prepared statement. "We look forward with confidence to the trial on the merits."

Excite@Home had planned to close the AT & T agreement after its annual shareholders' meeting June 20. Cablevision filed suit with the Delaware Chancery Court, claiming breach of contract, to block the closing. A hearing before the Delaware court on the matter, scheduled for Friday, June 23, has been canceled.

That agreement-AT & T would increase its voting control over Excite@Home to 74 percent from 56 percent and would eventually buy out Comcast's and Cox's minority interests-is aimed at tidying up ownership of the company.

Comcast and Cox also agreed to give up their seats on Excite@Home's board of directors and, if they choose, they can sell their stakes in Excite@Home for $48 per share, or a total of $3 billion.

Cablevision, which has no representation on Excite@Home's board, apparently wants the ability to sell its stake, too. Cablevision owns warrants to purchase about 21 million Excite@Home shares, or 5.2 percent of its outstanding stock. However, that stock would represent only 3.1 percent voting power at the company.

In a press release, Cablevision said it had "attempted to reach an amicable settlement of this dispute prior to taking court action."

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