A few months removed from selling California overbuilder Altrio Communications Inc., co-founder and former CEO David Rozzelle is back in cable as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Cebridge Connections.
Cebridge, headed by cable veteran Jerald Kent, has about 480,000 subscribers mostly in secondary markets. It’s based in St. Louis.
Altrio is considerably smaller than Cebridge — though it didn’t provide customer counts, it operated only in parts of the Los Angeles area — but Rozzelle brings a wealth of experience in small and large cable markets.
Rozzelle started his career in 1971 as a telecommunications lawyer for Washington, D.C.-based Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, then cut his operations teeth as cofounder, partner and cable-operations CEO of InterMedia Partners, the San Francisco-based MSO that grew from startup to 750,000 subscribers in just 30 months.
After leaving InterMedia in 1994, Rozzelle formed a media consulting firm, Media Connections Group, with two of his former InterMedia partners, Ted Liebst and Dave Large. The three formed Altrio in 2000 and sold it to Champion Broadband in March.
In an interview, Rozzelle said his new position isn’t that far removed from his past experience. He added that he will work closely with senior vice president of operations Dale Bennett.
“I decided to take this job because it’s a great job and it’s an opportunity to work with great people,” Rozzelle said.
“If you look at my career, I have been associated with companies that have grown quickly, and I think this falls within that category.”
Rozzelle, who just started the Cebridge job on Dec. 1, said his first priority will be to accelerate the integration of the MSO’s diverse operations.
Cebridge was formed in 2003 as a unit of Cequel III, a telecommunications investment company formed by Kent in 2002.
Cequel III went on an acquisition tear in 2003, purchasing interests in several small cable companies, the largest being the 325,000-subscriber Classic Communications. It currently has operations in 23 states.
“What I would like to do is work on defining the culture a little bit better,” Rozzelle said. “It’s certainly coming together nicely, [there are] good people here that worked hard to do that. We could go a little further with that and I think we can instill the service vision that we need all the way down through the ranks in order to succeed in today’s competitive environment.”
Cebridge has essentially completed the massive upgrade it began last year: More than 80% of its customer base should be two-way capable by the end of the year.
PHONE OFFER COMING
It has also begun to offer HDTV and digital video recorders in a few markets, and plans to launch a voice product sometime next year.
“Jerry [Kent] was emphasizing before Dave came on that 2005 is the year when we need to start rolling out VoIP, and that is part of the reason why Dave is here, because of [his] experience,” Cebridge spokesman Pete Abel said.
Rozzelle added that he intends to grow Cebridge both organically and through acquisition.
“If you take a look at what the company has done in the last 18 months in terms of acquisitions, it’s certainly been active,” Rozzelle said. “I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue to be active. It’s one of the things that attracted me to Cebridge to begin with.”