New York -- More than 650 cable-industry executives,
friends, family and business associates gathered last week to say goodbye to one of the
industry's consummate dealmakers, Cablevision Systems Corp. vice chairman Marc Lustgarten.
Lustgarten, 52, died Aug. 30 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center here. The cause was pancreatic cancer. Although he fought the disease for 16
months, Lustgarten kept working until he was hospitalized in July.
A 24-year Cablevision veteran, Lustgarten started as
assistant general counsel, but he soon established himself as a master tactician,
executing deals for chairman Charles Dolan that turned Cablevision into a powerhouse in
sports and entertainment programming.
Lustgarten's credits include creating Rainbow Media
Holdings Inc. -- the programming division that includes American Movie Classics, Bravo,
News 12 Long Island and regional sports-programming networks -- and buying Madison Square
Garden L.P., Radio City Entertainment, retail electronics chain The Wiz and the Clearview
Cinema Group theater chain.
Lustgarten also served as chairman of MSG.
Media and sports dignitaries at the service here included
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, New York Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon, NBC
chairman Robert Wright, Century Communications Corp. chairman Leonard Tow and Time Warner
Inc. chairman Gerald Levin.
Dolan eulogized his friend and colleague, saying he
"was one of a handful of industry early birds. All of these years, we shared the same
objective: We were growing a company. We shared anxiety, aspirations, frustrations and
Levin, in a prepared statement, summed up the feelings of
many in the industry. "Marc Lustgarten possessed a wonderful blend of vision,
integrity and invigorating intelligence. A dealmaker par excellence,as well
as an executive of great integrity, his impact on the cable industry was profound. The
deep sense of loss felt by his family and his colleagues is shared by all of us who knew
and admired him."
A one-time high-school English teacher and assistant
corporation counsel for New York City, Lustgarten was a graduate of Pace University, and
he also received law degrees from New York Law School and New York University Law School.
Once Lustgarten got into the cable business, he mastered it
quickly. He played a big role in transforming the small Long Island, N.Y., cable operator
into a major force in sports and cable programming, with a cable-subscriber base of 3.4
million in the New York metropolitan area, Boston and Cleveland.
In 1997, he helped to engineer the $850 million deal that
merged Fox/Liberty Networks' cable-sports channels with Cablevision's own sports networks
to create Fox Sports Net.
NBC Cable president Tom Rogers, who knew Lustgarten for
about 13 years, characterized him as the consummate dealmaker.
"Being on the opposite side of the table was a
humbling experience," Rogers said. "Nothing made you feel so inadequate as a
negotiator. Being on the same side was great. There was something about him that was so
artistic. He pulled in his prey, but he never seemed predatory. I marveled at his creative
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services president Leo J.
Hindery Jr. remembered Lustgarten as a study in contrasts.
"He was hard, but he was fair; he was precise, and yet
he was passionate; physically imposing, and gentle as a lamb; intellectually intimidating,
and yet emotionally very sensitive," Hindery said.
"It was very, very fascinating to me, that contrast of
him," he added. "A tough guy, the best father you'll ever meet and a wonderful
husband. You just had to be enormously proud of what he accomplished."
Cablevision CEO James Dolan, in his eulogy, characterized
Lustgarten as the glue that held the company and its father-and-son leaders together,
kidding that his and Lustgarten's roles were "to save Dad from those really dumb
Cablevision declined to comment on whether Lustgarten's
position would be filled, but some analysts said Cablevision might not have to do that.
"My feeling is that they are OK how they are -- not
trying to minimize [Lustgarten's] contributions," Credit Lyonnais Securities analyst
Richard Read said. "They have a management structure in place that is working
"What Jim [Dolan] said is just a clear indication of
how far he has come as a person, an operator and a businessman," Read added.
"You're really seeing somebody who has taken in everything he possibly could. He's a
substantial guy with substantial powers to run that company."