Altice CEO: Drahi's comments about firing people were 'misinterpreted'

Before officially closing its acquisition of Cablevision, Altice was under some fire regarding comments that founder and controlling shareholder Patrick Drahi made about job cuts and not liking to pay big salaries. When questioned about the comments by CNBC's David Faber, Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei said Drahi's comments have been a "little misinterpreted."

Goei clarified to Faber that Altice USA was not focused on job cuts, but rather on aligning employees with their shareholders. But he said that Altice USA has changed the compensation structure for the senior management team

"So, wholesale changes and employees is a complete misnomer for us right now, and we're very focused on integration and delivering and focusing on our customer-centric approach," said Goei, according to a CNBC transcript.

Faber's question stemmed from Altice management's appearance in September 2015 at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference. At the event, Goei pointed out that more than 300 Cablevision employees were making $300,000 per year or more, at the time. To that, "I don't like to pay salaries. I pay as little as I can … No one in our company is making more than a couple hundred thousand [dollars] a year."

The specter of job cuts looms as Altice USA is now on the hook for the $900 million in synergies promised once it took over Cablevision. But Goei seemed confident that Altice USA can make those cost savings happen and promised his company can bring a new way of thinking to the business.

"We've experienced quite a lot of changes in competitive pressures in the European markets, and we think we've got a good steady view as to what we can deliver over the next four to five years," Goei told CNBC.

Faber asked what that meant in terms of approach for Altice USA and questioned what the operator could do differently than Tom Rutledge, former Cablevision COO and current Charter CEO, and Jerry Kent, former Suddenlink CEO.

"Well, maybe we do know something they don't know. I don't know. I think it's fair to say just give us the space to operate here," said Goei.

For now, Goei said Altice USA will use that space to operate in order to focus on integration as well as quickly and appropriately deleveraging its new U.S. MSOs. But after 2016, Goei said Altice USA was open to exploring further cable consolidation options.

"…2017 will be a new year for us. And we'll see what happens. Yes, clearly there is consolidation that's been occurring in the cable industry. That's allowed for less and less players being out there. But that doesn't really change our approach for long term growth of our business whether that be through consolidation or organic growth," said Goei.

Goei's comments come as he assumes the role of Altice USA CEO, giving up his role as Altice N.V. CEO and taking over for Drahi as Altice N.V. chairman. Alcatel-Lucent veteran Michel Combes will take over the Altice N.V. CEO job.

For more:
- read this CNBC Squawk Box interview

Related articles:
Altice completes Cablevision acquisition, appoints Dexter Goei as CEO of U.S. business
Altice finally closing on Cablevision after NY regulatory approval
Cablevision's Lightpath fiber reaches 8K locations as NY regulators finally get ready to vote on Altice deal
Altice's Drahi promises Euro-like austerity at Cablevision: 'I don't like to pay big salaries,' he says

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