Thomas Rutledge, who resigned as COO of Cablevision Systems last week after almost a decade with the cable company, Monday was named president and CEO of cable operator Charter Communications.
According to Charter, he joins immediately and will take over his new title. He will also be a member of the board of directors. A move to Charter was considered a strong possibility for the seasoned cable operations chief.
Rutledge, 58, succeeds CEO Michael Lovett, who said in October he planned to step down when a successor was named. Lovett will remain atop the company until that Feb. 13 date.
Rutledge's departure surprised industry analysts and prompted a decline in Cablevision's stock price. Rutledge's employment contract contains a non-compete clause, but it only bars his moving to a Cablevision competitor, which Charter isn't.
"After conducting a comprehensive search process, the Board is delighted to welcome Tom to the Charter team," Eric L. Zinterhofer, Charter's board chairman, said in a statement. "Tom is a highly accomplished executive with a long track record of success. He has the rare combination of operational expertise and strategic vision to lead Charter through its promising next phase of growth. We look forward to working with him."
Rutledge's rare combination includes a stint as president of Time Warner Cable. He began his cable career in 1977 at American Television & Communications, which morphed into TWC. He worked there with John Bickham, who also went to work for Rutledge at Cablevision as head of cable operations for seven years before resigning last month. Rutledge's non-compete has a provision that bars him from hiring Cablevision employees for one year after his termination, Cablevision's 2009 proxy said, according to Wikinvest.com. Bickham joined Cablevision when Rutledge was promoted to chief operating officer.
"Charter is an outstanding company with great people, products, assets and growth opportunities," Rutledge said in a statement. "I am honored to have been chosen for this role and look forward to working with the Charter team to provide superior products and services to our customers, create an exciting work environment for our employees and build continued value for our shareholders. I have great respect for what Mike has achieved with the Company and appreciate his commitment to ensuring a smooth transition."
Charter had a solid third quarter, with revenue of $1.81 billion, about on par with estimates of $1.8 billion, and cash flow of $653 million, in line with expectations. The St. Louis, Mo.-based MSO outdelivered the prognosticators on high-speed Internet sub growth, adding 53,000 in the period versus predictions of 45,000 additions.
The company, with a reported 4.4 million video customers spread among 25 states, is bigger than Cablevision. Charter emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009 and earlier this year floated the prospect of selling its attractive Los Angeles cable system.
Rutledge is on the board of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. He was chairman of the NCTA from 2008-10 and was a 2011 B&C Hall of Fame honoree.
Lovett, who joined Charter in 2003, has been CEO since April 2010. He took over as interim CEO after Neil Smit exited to become president of Comcast Cable.