Cablevision's 'Katiegate'


It's been more than a week since Cablevision dramatically jettisoned 14 employees in its AMC unit, including AMC Networks president Kate McEnroe over allegedly improper accrual and "fabricated invoices."

And the cable industry remains riveted, clinging to the few details that are slowly emerging about cable's newest scandal. People continue to ask, "Does the crime befit the punishment?"

That's because even in this new era of corporate accounting transparency, the $6 million in questionable expense invoices seems like a mere pittance for a $33 billion company — especially when you think about what happened at Enron or cable's own Adelphia.

Only one of the 14 employees, as far as we know, was actually a financial person — which is odd, considering that this is an accounting problem.

People are understandably asking, what is going on here? Although countless conspiracy theories abound, I'm not so sure it's the case that there is a much larger scandal here.

Personally, I think Cablevision just got spooked.

In these times of living under the microscope of corporate transparency, it seems that Cablevision is trying to distance itself as far as possible from the very different and much more serious improprieties involving another family-dominated company, namely Adelphia.

Those comparisons, unfortunately, are unavoidable. Like Adelphia, run by the Rigas clan, many members of the Dolan family are steering the Cablevision ship. Cablevision chairman Chuck Dolan has anointed his son, Jim Dolan, as his right-hand man.

Jim Dolan's new wife Kristin, an employee who has been with the company for 14 years, was recently promoted to senior vice president, digital products management.

Can you imagine the pillow talk? I can't even go there.

And then there's Katie McEnroe, who had worked for the Dolan family for 23 years. On top of her new career problems, her bitter and protracted divorce hearings became common knowledge among many in cable — not to mention a tremendous distraction from her work.

The combination of all of those ingredients sounds more like the makings of a Lifetime movie. But this is not a Lifetime movie. For now, it's the real pain and angst of 14 employees who've found themselves in the middle of this situation, and who have no recourse but to turn to their own lawyers.

That's why this story is commanding such human interest. When we first blasted an e-mail alert about what was happening, our server crashed, unable to sustain the volume of traffic to the Web site. Within 10 minutes, some 3,000 people hit on the site.

In some cases, people frantically called our offices, asking someone to read them the stories, because they could not access then online.

Frankly, this is all about people. These 14 people forged close relationships that resulted in friendships. One of the 14 fired AMC employees had been the maid of honor at a prominent cable-industry executive's wedding. Another is holing up in another cable executive's condo to chill out.

While consolidation has made the cable industry seem less congenial, what I've seen is a tremendous outpouring of humanity and genuine care about the people involved with whatever really happened at Cablevision. One day we will know.