Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) COO Tom Rutledge is leaving the company after a nine-year run, a surprise move that caused one analyst to downgrade the MSO's stock.
International Strategy & Investment Group analyst Vijay Jayant called Rutledge's departure "one of the biggest bombshells in recent memory" and lowered his price target for Cablevision to $17 from $25.
"For Cablevision investors (still) in it for the long haul, we believe they'd better hope that the right person is found, and found soon," he wrote.
Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett added,"This is a staggering loss. Tom Rutledge is the hands-down-best executive in the cable business."
Rutledge has been CEO Jim Dolan's right-hand man, a tough negotiator who has been able to guide the company through some strenuous times.
Rutledge also has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the top job at Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR), where Mike Lovett last month announced he was stepping down from the top job by April 30, and has been a long-time favorite of other operators, like DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), which tried to lure him from Cablevision a couple of years ago.
He's the second Cablevision exec to leave recently. Its president of cable and communications, John Bickham, announced last month that he also was leaving the company.
Cablevision has some 3 million subscribers, almost all of which are in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
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."
In a statement, Dolan said, "Tom Rutledge has played a key role in driving and shaping Cablevision's success over the last decade, applying a rare combination of technological vision and operational excellence that has delivered results. We are enormously thankful for his time here."
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