Co-Op Founder Pandzik Will Retire

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San Diego— The search is on to replace Michael Pandzik, founding president of the National Cable Television Cooperative and the organization’s leader for two decades.

At the group’s 21st annual meeting here last week, Pandzik announced that he was retiring from the co-op he helped create, which started from a makeshift office in his living room.

Pandzik, who will turn 60 on Aug. 25, said he has several activities he wants to pursue and enjoy right now — namely travel and writing — and possibly will take on some consulting projects.

He offered some personal reasons for making the change at this particular time.

“I don’t mean this to sound morbid, because I don’t feel it in a morbid way, but my dad died when he was 55,” Pandzik said. “And he and my mom always had this plan, a very well-vocalized plan, that when us four kids all got out of college, they were going to travel. Well, he died at 55.”

GLEASON IN INTERIM

Tom Gleason, NCTC chairman and president of NewWave Communications, will serve as interim president of the co-op. Gleason, one of the NCTC’s original 12 members, will also lead the search for Pandzik’s replacement. Pandzik told the board about his plans to leave about a month ago.

Gleason said the group already has a short list of potential candidates, and Pandzik said he has made some suggestions. The NCTC is also ready to turn to a search firm, if need be.

“To my knowledge, there’s an open field, it’s an open opportunity,” Pandzik said.

Initial speculation at the NCTC’s meeting was that an outsider would wind up getting the gig.

Enlisted by the Mid-America Cable TV Association, Pandzik helped to spearhead creation of the NCTC, which started off in 1984 with a dozen Midwestern cable companies with fewer than 110,000 subscribers.

It now involves 1,100 independent cable operators with 6,300 cable systems serving 14 million subscribers.

The co-op buys cable programming and hardware, negotiating volume-price discounts like large MSOs by grouping its small-system members together.

“The co-op’s in great shape,” Pandzik said. “It’s in its 21st year. By every yardstick it’s a thriving, vibrant organization. It has no debt. And I have other things that I want to do. I’m basically a writer in an association guy’s body.”

He’s been writing freelance stories, on topics such as politics and travel, for over 30 years.

“I love travel writing,” Pandzik said. “I know how to do it. … I have a book or two in mind.”

Pandzik, a retired Naval Reserve officer, added, “There are places I love that I want to go back to.”

But he and his wife Cary plan to stay in Kansas City.

WAS A CAMERAMAN

Pandzik started his career in television in 1966 as a cameraman for the Nebraska Public Television Network. After graduate school at Kansas University, he moved into cable in 1970 as the second employee for Sunflower Cablevision in Lawrence, Kan.

He joined Home Box Office in 1978 to head up its sales and marketing office in Kansas City, later moving to New York to serve as the channel’s director of new-business development. He returned to Kansas City to serve as the NCTC’s founding president.

“Mike has grown this organization from its very small beginnings to what is now an integral part of the independent cable operator’s business,” Gleason said in a prepared statement. “We will miss his leadership and his dedication, but we respect his decision to retire.”

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