A few months ago, it was a story everyone vociferously denied. Last week, the denials ended when David Krone — a senior executive with Leo Hindery's Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network — said he will return to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association as executive vice president.
Krone, who held the NCTA's No. 2 job for four months before leaving in early 2000, is to begin work on July 1. He replaces Peggy Binzel, who announced her departure last Tuesday.
Binzel leaves on June 30, after a strained two-year tenure under NCTA president Robert Sachs.
In early March, cable insiders indicated that Krone would replace Binzel, who was unhappy in her job. But Krone and NCTA officials strongly denied such a move was pending.
Krone — who left for vacation in Istanbul, Turkey, on the day of his appointment — was unavailable for comment. A senior cable-industry source insisted Krone's return to the NCTA was unsettled until last week, when Binzel made her departure plans official.
"David brings in-depth knowledge of both the cable business and Washington, as well as excellent political and communications skills. He'll hit the ground running and play a key role in NCTA's future," Sachs said. "I'm delighted to have him back."
Both Sachs and Krone are Democrats. Binzel is a Republican with close ties to House Energy and Commerce chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.).
Krone has close ties to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and nearly became Daschle's pick earlier this year to fill a vacant Democratic seat on the Federal Communications Commission. He opted to pull out of the contest.
In the past, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has complained about trade associations that fill their leadership posts with Democrats and then send those people to Capitol Hill to seek favors from the GOP-controlled House. A DeLay press aide did not know whether the whip was aware of the Krone appointment.
Krone was a senior Washington lobbyist for MSO Tele-Communications Inc.
When AT&T Corp. bought TCI in 1999, Krone remained with the company briefly, as a lobbyist for AT&T Broadband. He then jumped to the NCTA in late 1999.
In February 2000, he left the trade group to join his mentor Hindery in the Silicon Valley — at GlobalCenter Inc., the Internet-hosting subsidiary of Global Crossing Holdings Inc., the fiber-optic carrier that has declared bankruptcy.
In early 2001, Krone left GlobalCenter to return to Washington, where he was associated with Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & Mac-
Kinnon, a Washington lobbying firm employed by the NCTA. He was also associated with HL Capital Inc., Hindery's private-investment firm.
Krone joined YES last year as executive vice president of marketing. But YES, which owns the exclusive local-television rights to 130 New York Yankees baseball games, has been plagued by its carriage dispute with Cablevision System Corp., which controls 3 million subscribers in the greater New York City market.
YES has filed a federal antitrust suit against Cablevision for refusing to carry the network on its basic tier, which reaches all subscribers. Cablevision, which considers the $2 monthly subscriber fee for YES excessive, has offered the network a channel and the right to set its price and keep all the revenue. YES rejected that offer.
A senior cable source said the NCTA executive committee — which includes Cablevision CEO James Dolan — was consulted on the Krone hiring, in light of the bad blood between YES and Cablevision. Evidently, the 14-member executive committee did not raise serious objections.
Dolan on board
"If you asked Jim Dolan for comment, I think you would get a very positive one," a cable source indicated.
Cablevision declined to comment on Krone's appointment.
Hindery issued a statement that did not touch on the Cablevision dispute.
"David Krone is a consummate professional with an almost unique insight to the cable industry," said Hindery. "It has been YES's privilege to have him around at its birthing, and I envy the NCTA who now has him as he returns to his beloved Washington."
At last month's National Show in New Orleans, both AT&T Broadband CEO William Schleyer and Cox Communications CEO James O. Robbins publicly declared their support for Cablevision over YES.
Cox spokeswoman Ellen East said Robbins had no problem with Krone landing at NCTA.
"I haven't heard any objections," East said. "David was working for YES and doing his job. He'll work for NCTA and do his job there."
Binzel joined NCTA on March 27, 2000. She was recruited to the post by Sachs, but the Sachs-Binzel relationship did not work out as planned, and she opted to leave before her contract expired next March.
"I've been privileged to have had the opportunity to represent this incredibly dynamic industry from my days at Turner Broadcasting [System Inc.] to the Fox cable networks to NCTA," Binzel said in a joint statement with Sachs.
Binzel is expected to leave in a few days to start work July 1 as CEO of CoreNet Global, an Atlanta-based association for corporate real estate executives here and abroad.
"Peggy has been a great advocate for our industry and a valued colleague at NCTA," Sachs said. "We wish her every success in her new venture."
Prior to NCTA, Binzel was senior vice president of government relations of News Corp., the TV, film, publishing and cable-network empire of Rupert Murdoch. She joined News Corp. after a stint as director of government relations for Turner.
In her new job, Binzel will lead an international organization whose mission is to advance the careers of thousands of executives who manage the real-estate interests of large corporations, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Binzel was a low-key personality at NCTA, responsible for keeping tabs on cable issues on Capitol Hill and networking with Washington lobbyists for other cable MSOs and programmers.
Binzel's departure comes just five months after NCTA vice president of communications David Beckwith left to help Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, a Republican, in his race for the U.S. Senate.
Beckwith was replaced on Jan. 2 by Rob Stoddard, who was named NCTA's senior vice president of communications and public affairs. Stoddard had been senior vice president of public relations at AT&T Broadband.