Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, will exit the cable trade group next spring.
"Serving at NCTA has been a great honor, a wonderful learning experience, and personally and professionally rewarding. I have been proud to represent the cable industry, which I now regard as my home. I am truly grateful to the NCTA board for having given me this opportunity and for their strong leadership and support," McSlarrow said in a statement.
The NCTA board will form a search committee to find a successor.
McSlarrow said he had made his intentions known in recent months.
"Over the last several months, I have discussed with members of the NCTA board my interest in transitioning to another role in our industry that would allow me to work more fully on business and operating activities," he said. "Earlier this week, I informed the NCTA board of my decision to begin exploring opportunities now, and we agreed on the spring of 2011 as the target for my departure from NCTA."
McSlarrow, in an interview, told Multichannel News that he informed NCTA from the outset that he wanted eventually to get into the business side of the cable business.
"I turned 50 this year [in June] and that always makes you think," he said. "It reinforced in my mind that I still wanted to do that. And in order to start that transition, I actually have to leave. It has been a fantastic job, and I love it, but it wasn't my long-term goal to have this be my last job."
McSlarrow said he has talked to a number of CEO's already, essentially to gauge their interest once he was free to start seriously looking, but that he has no job lined up as of now.
McSlarrow joined NCTA in March 2005 and wound up spending much of his early tenure defending the industry from attacks on its business model -- bundled channels vs. a la carte -- and its prices from then-Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin.
McSlarrow's creed has been to avoid whenever possible asking government to step into the cable business because such calls wind up being a two-edged sword.
"It came as a surprise to all of us on the NCTA staff, said spokesman Rob Stoddard. "He clearly has been at the top of his game for quite some time and there are a lot of big challenges that lie ahead."
But Stoddard said McSlarrow did point out in his meeting with the staff that one of his predecessors, Decker Anstrom, had been at NCTA for about five and a half years. "So, it is not unusual for the CEO to depart after that period of time."
Stoddard said that McSlarrow has told many board members from the outset that his goal was to wind up in one of the operating companies. "That has always been one of his goals, and he just thought this was the right time to make the move," said Stoddard.
"The term that he has been using is that he didn't want to 'skulk around' and try to negotiate while he still continued under the mantle of CEO, and this is an opportunity to do this all above board and in the light of day."
From what he knows of the board members, accordingf to Stoddard, "most of them are sad to see him go because he has just done a terrific job."
Stoddard had no line on a possible successor, but if NCTA goes in-house, an obvious candidate would be executive vice president James Assey, NCTA's number two, a former top Democratic congressional staffer.
Given the broadband and other policy challenges facing the industry, NCTA will likely be looking for somebody who is agile in the policy realm.
But there are also plenty of soon-to-be out of work legislators.
"Kyle quickly sync'd up with the cable industry's preference for technology innovation, pragmatic policy-making, and protection of creative programming," said former NCTA attorney Dan Brenner of the outgoing NCTA president. "He has a great capacity to encourage and listen to all ideas from staff and the board. That listening skill, and engaged pragmatism with policy makers, are the keys to his remarkable success at NCTA."
McSlarrow has been one of the best-compensated association heads, according to the latest Washingtonian salary survey, earning compensation of $2,214,896.