Former Insight Communications CEO Michael Willner will serve as chief executive of the new cable company to be owned by Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) following Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC).
Willner is intimately familiar with many of the properties that will serve some 2.5 million cable customers in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin, including former Insight territories.
The new company will have a nine-member board of directors, three of whom will be appointed by Charter, including Charter CEO Tom Rutledge, who will be non-executive chairman, the companies said in a release. Comcast will pick three of the remaining six members of the board, and will choose three more from a list provided by Charter.
These six board members will be independent of both Charter and Comcast, the companies said. Charter also will have a services agreement with the new company.
Willner is one of the most respected cable executives among his peers as well as in Wall Street and Capitol Hill circles. He has been involved in the cable industry since 1974, forming Insight in 1985. He ran that company until he sold it to Time Warner in 2012. He has served as NCTA chairman twice, steering the industry through some rocky periods of reregulation in the 1990s. He convinced other MSOs to adopt customer service standards after Congress punished the industry with reregulation for price and service abuses, a move that mollified irked regulators and helped pave the way for new rules in 1996.
He was also one of the first MSO executives to reach out directly to customers and employees with a blog he personally wrote almost every day, a move that endeared him to both constiuentcies. Most recently Willner was president/CEO of software licensing company Penthera Partners. He will remain on that board in the wake of this new gig.
"A skilled operator with an impressive track record of success, Michael has been a pillar of leadership and an active ambassador for the Industry," Rutledge said in the release. "Michael's expertise, strategic vision, and knowledge from his years at Insight will be invaluable to the customers, employees and shareholders of SpinCo. Having him on board now--and leading the new business post-transaction--will be extremely advantageous."
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts echoed Rutledge's sentiments. "His deep knowledge of the cable business, combined with his experience and focus on technology, will enable him to drive growth and product innovation for customers and position SpinCo as a competitor in the industry," Roberts said in a prepared statement.
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