Charter CEO: John Malone Content Holdings Shouldn't Affect Time Warner Cable Deal Review

AP Photo/Richard Drew
Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge

Tom Rutledge speaks about Malone, whose Liberty Media owns a big stake in Charter, and entertainment companies' digital licensing strategies.

Charter Communications would be ready any time to close its planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable if regulators approve it, CEO Tom Rutledge said Monday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

Could Malone's holdings in Charter and such content companies as Discovery Communications, Starz and Lionsgate become a stumbling block for the deal? "They are not in a control position," Rutledge said, adding that in a traditional analysis, "there is no issue there." Added Rutledge: With all of Malone's content stakes, "it wouldn’t be economic for him to advantage Charter."

"It's moving along well," Rutledge said about the regulatory review process. "We haven’t attracted the kinds of concerns" that Comcast faced when it tried to buy Time Warner Cable.

Charter, in which John Malone's Liberty Media owns a big stake, earlier this year struck a deal to acquire Time Warner Cable after Comcast abandoned its takeover plan amid regulators' opposition.

Shareholders of both companies approved the proposed deal in late September. When the two companies announced the deal in late May, they said it was valued at $78.7 billion, including debt. Charter will pay upwards of $55 billion in cash and stock.

With Malone setting up Charter as a consolidator in the cable industry, the company also previously agreed to acquire Bright House, the cable operator run by Advance/Newhouse, for $10.4 billion.

The combined company will be the second-largest U.S. cable operator and the largest in Southern California. It will be the third-largest pay TV company in the U.S. behind Comcast and AT&T-DirecTV.

Most of TWC's plant is in "great shape," but the goal after a hoped-for deal close would be to "now get the consumer experience in great shape," the Charter CEO told the UBS conference. Rutledge also said that with Time Warner and other entertainment giants rethinking their digital licensing strategies, "content companies sold content to OTT somewhat without strategy." 

The big year-end investor conference features the CEOs and other top executives from big industry players. It is widely seen as the final event of the year where big-name executives provide an outlook for the new year and sound off on hot-button issues.