People at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association got a glimpse of their new boss Tuesday.
Just as his appointment as the NCTA's new president was being announced, Kyle E. McSlarrow gathered with about 100 NCTA staff members for a 30-minute session during which no plans for a major shakeup were disclosed.
“He has great respect for the people who are here at the NCTA and their accumulated knowledge that he’s got to get up to speed on. He certainly has no plans to make big changes,” said Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable and chairman of the NCTA board of directors.
However, sources said on a confidential basis that NCTA executive vice president David Krone was expected to leave the trade group within a few months.
McSlarrow, 44, is leaving his position as deputy energy secretary at the Department of Energy next month to take the reins at the NCTA March 1, replacing Robert Sachs, who joined the NCTA in 1999 but declined to seek a contract extension.
Dressed in a business suit and light-blue tie, McSlarrow addressed NCTA staff in the company of Britt and two other members of the NCTA search committee, Landmark Communications Inc. president Decker Anstrom (a past NCTA president) and Michael Willner, vice chairman and CEO of Insight Communications Co. Inc.
In an interview, Britt declined to discuss terms of McSlarrow’s contract, including salary. Sachs earned about $1.3 million per year, making him one of the highest-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
“[McSlarrow is] making a serious commitment to the NCTA, but I think it’s inappropriate to talk about those details,” Britt said.
The NCTA hired a search firm to vet job candidates.
A Republican with solid connections to the Bush administration, McSlarrow also has friendships on Capitol Hill from his years serving as a top aide to Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) when they were Majority Leader.
“Kyle’s lengthy record of leadership, accomplishment and experience as a senior aide in the U.S. Senate and in the administration will benefit our industry as we work with legislators and policy makers to ensure that cable can continue to prosper, grow and compete,” Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a prepared statement.
The NCTA and the cable industry promote their commitment to diversity, but McSlarrow’s selection continues the tradition of a white male heading the trade group.
“We really were looking for the best person we could have, and we instructed [the search firm] to look for people who were not white men, as well as white men,” Britt said. “At the end of the day, we think we hired the best person we could find.”
McSlarrow’s selection, first reported Monday by Multichannel News, ended months of speculation after Sachs declined last June to seek a contract extension.
"Kyle brings to the NCTA a long record of achievement in government, a history of success in working with congressional leaders, solid experience in dealing with regulatory issues and a strong belief in cable's potential to serve the needs of American consumers in a free and competitive marketplace," Britt said in a prepared statement.
"We are fortunate to have Kyle join the NCTA, particularly as Congress embarks on a major review of the 1996 Telecommunications Act," Britt added.
“The cable industry is providing great benefit to consumers through its quality programming, dynamic new services and superior technology,” McSlarrow said in a joint statement with Britt. “I'm honored to represent the many fine people and companies that comprise the industry, and I'm eager to lead the effort to tell cable's story in Washington.”
McSlarrow’s Senate connections are important because the Senate Commerce Committee, where Lott serves, is planning to work, as Britt noted, on legislation overhauling bedrock telecommunications policies.
Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is concerned that the migration of voice and data traffic to the Internet is draining money from the multibillion-dollar program that channels subsidies to rural telephone companies with high fixed costs.
Stevens has declared that he wants cable to contribute broadband revenue to the subsidy pool.
The cable industry has agreed in principle to contribute voice-over-Internet-protocol revenue to the program because cable VoIP calls terminate on phone-company networks. But it has not agreed to contribute a portion of its $10 billion in annual cable-modem revenue.
McSlarrow ran for the House from northern Virginia in 1992 and 1994, losing both times to incumbent Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) in bitterly fought contests between ideological polar opposites who clashed over abortion rights and gun control.
McSlarrow was chief of staff to energy secretary Spencer Abraham before being named deputy secretary in 2002. He was vice president of political and government affairs for Grassroots.com (www.grassroots.com), a political-services-marketing firm. He was also national chairman of former VP Dan Quayle’s failed presidential run in 2000.
McSlarrow is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a captain in the U.S. Army, serving as an assistant to the general counsel in the Office of the Army Secretary from 1985-89.
He is married to Alison McSlarrow, a former GOP Senate aide and current lobbyist whose client list has included Microsoft Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. The two met when both were Senate aides.
Sachs will leave the NCTA Feb. 28, Britt said.
"Robert has had great success in achieving a favorable regulatory environment for new broadband services,” Britt added. “He has been a true leader of the highest integrity and an effective advocate in helping the cable industry to achieve its public-policy goals. We've valued Robert's help in managing this leadership transition, and we offer him our sincere thanks.”