Altice creating 'culture of fear' at Suddenlink, former staffer tells WSJ

While Altice NV hasn't conducted wide-scale job cuts at its two recent U.S. cable acquisitions, a Wall Street Journal report describes a workplace dynamic that seems to be having a similar staff-reducing effect. 

In fact, one former Suddenlink executive quoted by the paper said the European telecom conglomerate is creating a "culture of fear" at Suddenlink, for which Altice paid $9.1 billion to acquire a controlling interest in last year. 

According to the WSJ source, the conglomerate has set up an "authoritarian" investment committee, that pores over expense-related minutia in hours-long meetings. As Altice continues to cut costs and create new teams, Suddenlink workers are exiting in "threes and fours each week," WSJ said.

"It creates consternation for about two months," said Dexter Goei, who heads U.S. operations for Altice, to WSJ. "Then people realize, 'Boy, I really don't want to go to the investment committee. We just got 500 printers a year ago; we can probably extend their life one more year.'"

"The sentiment expressed by a disgruntled former Suddenlink employee is not at all indicative of our employees who are excited about being a part of Altice USA," Altice responded in a statement to FierceCable.

Altice directed FierceCable to earlier comments made by Goei, who has described Altice's U.S. cable strategy as saving on operational costs to invest in network connectivity. 

Speaking to CNBC's David Faber earlier this month, Goei said, "We feel as if we bring a new way of thinking to the business here. 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. I think it's time to let us work, help us focus on integrating the businesses and operating them and we'll see you know we'll talk about it as we go along and we feel really good about the markets."

The company just closed its $17.7 billion purchase of Cablevision. It has pledged to trim $900 million of operational cost from the Northeast-region cable operator. However, Altice is restricted by regulatory conditions from conducting wide-scale job cuts. 

Of course, having popular Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent step aside, while replacing Cablevision chief James Dolan and his regime are entirely different matters. 

As WSJ also noted, Cablevision staffers were "surprised" last week to see top Altice executives lunching in the company canteen — a place Dolan reportedly never ventured, at least not without body guards. 

Goei has said much of Cablevision's initial cutting will come from program licensing deals. 

"We have about half of our programming lineup that's up for renewal very soon," he said. "There are clearly a lot of channels that we'd like to get rid of." But he noted many networks are part of broader programming deals that require all of a company's channels to be carried.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story

Related articles:
Cablevision to shutter Freewheel as Comcast, others prepare to jump into mobile
Altice's Drahi hints at original programming plans, will bring i24 News to U.S. market
Altice completes Cablevision acquisition, appoints Dexter Goei as CEO of U.S. business

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