New Charter CEO Tom Rutledge: 'This Is A Great Company With Even Greater Potential'

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NEW YORK - The new CEO of Charter Communications on Monday told analysts that "this is a great company with even greater potential" as the cable operator reported a fourth-quarter loss that was virtually unchanged amid a slight revenue gain.

"I'm excited about the year ahead, and I believe there is significant opportunity for growth here," said Charter's new president and CEO Tom Rutledge, the former COO of Cablevision Systems, who has been in his job for two weeks, on the firm's quarterly earnings conference call. "My focus will be on ensuring that the fundamentals of taking care of our customers are constantly improving, that we offer products and services that are better than any alternative and that we are a company that customers want to do business with. The team here is terrific, and I'm excited to be on board and to help Charter reach its full potential."

Rutledge vowed to concentrate on getting Charter back to video subscriber growth and said that pricing, packaging and technological innovation will be key focus areas for him. "While still early on, I'm impressed with the team, the operations and the strategy for future growth," he emphasized. 

Asked if Charter needs to do any deals, he said it can be "a very successful company at its current size." Asked for comparisons with his former employer, Rutledge said Charter is less clustered than Cablevision, requiring different marketing strategies. Asked if he could bring some of Cablevision's iPad and other video strategies to Charter, the new CEO told analysts that he wasn't ready to unveil any new video strategies, but asked observers to stay tuned.

The company's fourth-quarter loss of $67 million compared to $70 million in the year-ago period. Wall Street had expected a narrower loss. Revenue rose 2.8 percent, or 2.6 percent on a pro forma basis, to $1.83 billion.

Charter ended 2011 with 4.09 million video users, down from 4.31 million at the end of 2010, after losing 45,500 in the fourth quarter. The cable firm said its total customer relationships grew 8,700 in the latest quarter, compared with a loss of 35,700 in the year-ago period.

"This will be an important year for Charter and our customers, and I'm excited to be a part of it," said Rutledge in a statement in the company's earnings report. "Charter executed well on its strategic priorities in 2011, as demonstrated by enhanced product offerings, an improved customer relationship trend, and solid financial performance. As we move into 2012, our team is committed to a high standard of customer service delivery and operational excellence in all aspects of our business and to making the right investments for the future. Focusing on these fundamentals provides a real opportunity to grow our business."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai
 

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