Another top executive leaving Cablevision
Tom Rutledge, the chief operating officer of Cablevision Systems Corp. and a well-regarded media industry executive, is leaving the company after a nine-year tenure.
Cablevision, which has about 3 million subscribers, primarily in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, did not provide any explanation for Rutledge's abrupt resignation.
Rutledge's exit comes just a few weeks after the surprise resignation of John Bickham, Cablevision's president of cable communications.
Rutledge, 58, was known as a tough negotiator for his boss, Jim Dolan, Cablevision's president and chief executive. The two were something of an odd couple. While Dolan is a colorful and free-wheeling character who fronts a blues band and has a bit of a swagger, Rutledge is seen more as a straight-laced family man.
In a statement, Rutledge said, "Everything I hoped for when I came to Cablevision has come true." Dolan credited Rutledge with having a "rare combination of technological vision and operational excellence."
ISI analsyt Vijay Jayant called Rutledge's exit "one of the biggest bombshells in recent industry memory." Jayant downgraded the stock to hold saying the departure of Cablevision's `key man' comes at a tenuous time for the company," noting increased competition from Verizon's FiOS and a the growth of the Internet as a competitor to cable.
Cablevision said it has started a search for a replacement for Bickham but that it has an "experienced senior management team in place" to take on Rutledge's duties.
Cablevision is known for its battles with other media industry giants. It had loud fights with both News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC over new distribution deals for their channels. It also feuded with Viacom over its desire to stream cable programming to Apple's iPad devices.
According to Securities & Exchange filings, Rutledge's 2010 compensation was valued at $28.2 million, which was up about $18 million from 2009.
— Joe Flint and Meg James
Photo: Tom Rutledge. Credit: Cablevision.