Gabelli: I’ll Squire Dolan Around

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In the wake of Cablevision Systems CEO James Dolan’s pledge to listen to shareholders while gauging the company’s options in boosting its value, one major investor has offered his help.

Gamco Investors chairman Mario Gabelli said in an interview Thursday that he would be more than willing to squire Dolan to investor groups to hear their thoughts. And Gabelli, whose funds own about 20 million Cablevision shares, offered a few suggestions of his own.

Gabelli did not want to say whether Cablevision or the Dolan family have reached out to him for his input.

“We have introduced the idea of seeing money managers through our sell-side broker dealer,” Gabelli said. “We would take him around to Boston [and other cities]; that’s what we do ... We take managements around to see shareholders.”

Gabelli, who has been an outspoken critic of the company, said that he would sell its AMC cable network and return more free cash flow to shareholders.

“My prescription for Jimmy: stop doing deals for a few minutes,” Gabelli said, referring to recent acquisitions of Newsday and the Sundance Channel.

The Gamco chairman said that Dolan’s pledge to boost value most likely came after hearing rumblings from shareholders.

“Jimmy is a very smart guy,” Gabelli said. “He absorbs dots and he knows how to connect them.”

Gabelli, who voted against the last Dolan effort to go private, said he does not think that this latest development means that the Dolan family will attempt to take the cable operations off the public rolls a fourth time.

“I don’t think that this is a going-private transaction,” Gabelli said.

Gabelli added that by stating that he is willing to explore different options and solicit shareholder input is a sign that Dolan is serious about wanting to boost value. But there is still a question as to whether the Cablevision CEO will take any of the advice he receives over the coming months to heart.

“He’s singing my song,” Gabelli said. “The question is will he execute on it?”

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