Cox Communications Inc. president and CEO James Robbins
made several structural changes to his top management team late last month, leading to
inside speculation that he may be quietly grooming his successor over the long term.
Margaret Bellville, newly promoted to senior vice president
of operations, and Jimmy Hayes, senior vice president of finance and administration and
chief financial officer, will each take over a series of new responsibilities. Both report
directly to Robbins.
Sources familiar with the company said the pair appear to
be heirs apparent in the race to succeed Robbins one day.
In related news, 17-year Cox veteran Ajit Dalvi, senior
vice president of programming and strategy, will take early retirement March 1, but he
will remain active with Cox as a consultant, also reporting to Robbins.
Four executives who had directly reported to Robbins will
now report to Bellville or Hayes. According to a company spokeswoman, Robbins pared down
his number of direct reports to six so that he could spend more time on long-term growth
Vice president of marketing Virginia Gray will now report
to Bellville. Two vice presidents of operations, Jayson Juraska and Claus Kroeger -- who
had been peers of Bellville prior to her promotion -- now report to her.
Bellville said she expects to name a replacement for her
old post, in which she oversaw system operations in San Diego and Orange County, Calif.;
New Orleans; and Hampton Roads, Va.
Judy Henke, vice president of human resources, now reports
to Hayes instead of to Robbins.
Bellville said last week that the personnel restructuring
was geared toward putting more of a team effort behind the integration of new services.
By integrating different functions under a single charge,
Bellville believes that Cox can more quickly and efficiently deliver new technologies --
including digital video, telephone and data services -- to its customers.
"Bundling has always been part of our strategy,"
Bellville said. Although she couldn't say when or where Cox would first offer bundled
service packages, she said she hopes to do so sometime this year.
Cox will continue its focus on decentralization after the
restructuring, Bellville said. "We support our systems and their differences,"
she added, noting that each system has a different time line for delivering new services.
In her new role, Bellville's responsibilities will
include marketing, advertising sales, field operations for all Cox systems, customer
support, market research and public affairs.
Bellville has been with Cox since 1995, when she became
vice president of operations. Before joining the cable industry with Century
Communications Corp., she spent 15 years in the cellular and telephone industries, with
AT&T Corp. and Contel Celluar Inc.
"What I learned there is the absolute value of the
customer," Bellville said. "We cannot afford to let any customers leave us. We
have to learn what to do to retain every customer."
In his new role, Hayes' new responsibilities include
programming and human resources. He already oversees treasury; accounting; mergers and
acquisitions; financial planning and analysis; information systems; and legal affairs. He
has been with Cox since 1980.
Dalvi will relinquish direct responsibilities for
programming and devote his time to strategic assistance. His position will likely not be
"My years at Cox are not over," Dalvi said.
"This is my professional home, and it will continue to be. This is where I learned
the cable business and where I've had the most fun in my professional career."
Dalvi said the strength of Cox's stock performance --
it has tripled in the past two years -- has allowed him to take semiretirement and to
devote more time to his family and to other professional projects.
He added that one reason why he chose this time to retire
was because Robbins was already planning to restructure the company.
Dalvi will continue to represent Cox on several boards in
which it has an interest, including those of programmers Outdoor Life Network, Speedvision
and Gems Television. He will no longer sit on the board of Viewers Choice.