Cablevision won't replace Rutledge 'for foreseeable future'; CEO Dolan says he'll run operations

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Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) won't replace former top cable operations executives Tom Rutledge and John Bickham, CEO Jim Dolan told analysts Tuesday, noting that he will run the cable business.

Jim Dolan, Cablevision

Dolan

The first question Dolan received on Cablevision's earnings call Tuesday was whether he would replace former COO Rutledge and former president of cable communications Bickham, who both resigned abruptly late last year. "As far as succession plans go, I am currently running the operation, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," Dolan said.

Asked by Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett to provide some color on the events that led to the exits of Rutledge and Bickham, Dolan had a curt answer: "No."

Some Wall Street analysts have criticized Cablevision for the management shakeup, which saw Rutledge leave the company to join Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) as CEO. While Dolan made a point of emphasizing that he has taken the reins at Cablevision as it wages a battle for subscribers with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and its FiOS products, not all investors appeared satisfied with that strategy. Cablevision stock, which was trading higher after it posted fourth-quarter earnings early Tuesday, fell about 6 percent after the earnings call.

Cablevision, which lost 14,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, won't raise its rates in 2012, which is very rare for a cable MSO and a move that could impact its profits this year. But Dolan said that Cablevision, which had been shopping a $69.99 triple-play package to FiOS subscribers, would eliminate its inexpensive offers.

"You won't see those (introductory offers) again, probably ever, at the rates that they were," Dolan said.

Also worth noting from Cablevision's Q4 earnings call:

  • Dolan said Cablevision began testing next-day installations for new residents in Q4, and that it will expand the next-day installation program this year.
  • Cablevision will continue to expand its network of WiFi hotspots, Dolan said.
  • Cablevision has seen strong demand for its app for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It counts more than 500,000 users for the apps.

Related articles: 
Cablevision loses 14,000 video subscribers in Q4, but gains phone, Internet customers
Cablevision develops technology for WiFi-based mobile phone service
Dolan to Cablevision employees: Give management chance 'to show you that it does care'
Cablevision targets FiOS subscribers with $69.99 triple-play offer
Cablevision stock slides on Rutledge resignation