This should relieve investors who feared that Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman Jim Dolan‘s decision to invest $125M in an entertainment partnership with music manager Irving Azoff would leave the sports and entertainment company strapped for cash. MSG says that it has been “approached by certain parties expressing interest in Fuse and [has] retained JP Morgan to explore all strategic alternatives” — which usually means a sale. The music channel reaches 73M pay TV homes, and distributors pay an average of 8 cents per month for each home. Fuse could sell for about $300M, Credit Suisse analyst Michael Senno figures following Al Jazeera’s agreement to pay $500M for Current TV which collected about 11 cents per sub from distributors. That would “more than offset capital used in recent investments” including the Azoff deal and a $25M investment in Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil also notes that Fuse could command a healthy price because its deals with distributors would enable a buyer to reprogram the network to offer “anything other than live sports.” Many MSG shareholders are eager to see the company return cash to them, possibly by repurchasing shares.
The longtime music manager will be CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, which vows to develop “artist-friendly and, as a result, fan-friendly projects” in music, TV, and digital media. Irving Azoff will own 50% by folding in Azoff Music Management, where he’ll continue to handle clients including the Eagles, Steely Dan, Van Halen, and Christina Aguilera. Madison Square Garden will kick in $125M for its 50% and will provide as much as $50M in revolving credit loans. Outside of music management, Azoff and MSG Executive Chairman Jim Dolan see themselves largely as a source of venture capital. “We don’t know what the next big thing is going to be, but we want our phone to ring so we get a chance to help find it and nurture it,” Azoff tells me. “This was a dream we had to have a place where we could move quickly.”
You can’t attribute the 9.4% increase in Cablevision‘s share price today — and 23% jump over the last five days — to the day’s only solid news: Charter just closed the deal announced in February to pay $1.63B for Cablevision’s systems in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. No, investors are more excited by new reports that the Dolan family — led by Cablevision founder Charles Dolan and his son, CEO Jim Dolan — may finally be willing to sell the company, and that Time Warner Cable as well as Charter want to kick the tires. TWC has long salivated to combine its crown jewel cable system in Manhattan with Cablevision’s franchises in New York’s outer boroughs and suburbs including Long Island. Up to now, the Dolans haven’t been interested. The family tried to take the company private in 2007, but shareholders rejected the offer. Cablevision’s stock took a roller-coaster ride as execs grappled with growing competition from phone companies led by Verizon’s FiOS and restructured operations — including spinoff deals in 2010 for Madison Square Garden, and in 2011 for AMC Networks. But Cablevision’s stock price has been virtually dormant since the beginning of 2012, at least until the latest speculation-fueled run-up. The change: Liberty Media’s John Malone recently paid $2.6B for a 27.3% stake in Charter — run by former Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge. They’re eager to snag Time Warner Cable.
The stock was just up 3.6% last year, but the board says that execs did a good job despite “the continuing difficult economic and competitive environment in 2012 and the impact of Superstorm Sandy.” Jim Dolan‘s package consisted of …
CEO Jim Dolan didn’t have to look far to find the three execs he just named to top jobs reporting to him. He appointed his wife Kristin to a new position of President of Optimum Services, giving her …
The announcement, in a Live Nation SEC filing today, offers no explanation for the resignation that it says was tendered Friday and was “effective immediately.” But it follows the surprise year-end resignation of Irving Azoff, who …
The new sales effort puts a spotlight on Kristin Dolan, who’s Cablevision‘s senior EVP Product Management and Marketing — and also happens to be the wife of CEO Jim Dolan, and a member of the boards of Cablevision, AMC Networks, and Madison Square Garden. A long-time Cablevision employee, she formally took charge of Cablevision’s image machine last November. But analysts noted that her power at the company grew early this year as several top execs left, including COO Tom Rutledge and Marketing EVP Jonathan Hargis. (Both are now at Charter Communications.) BTIG analyst Rich Greenflield said in March that Jim Dolan decided to take control of operations because he blamed the old guard for allowing the company to lose ”both its technology and marketing edge.” Marketing is especially important for Cablevision. It faces stiff competition from Verizon FiOS in many of its systems in the tri-state area around New York. The company’s shares are down 7.7% over the last 12 months, a stark contrast to Time Warner Cable’s +43.7% and Charter’s +64.8%.
“Cablevision is witnessing one of the most dramatic and rapid management turnovers we have ever witnessed in our coverage of the media universe,” says BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield — Wall Street’s fiercest critic of the company and its strong-willed CEO Jim Dolan. Greenfield commented after the Long Island-based cable operator announced that David Klein is leaving as head of Cablevision Media Sales, to be replaced by Gregory McCastle, who was with AT&T. The move follows the exit of COO Tom Rutledge (now CEO of Charter), CFO Mike Huseby (who just became CFO of Barnes & Noble), President of Cable Operations John Bickham, CMO Jon Hargis, Corporate Engineering EVP Jim Blackley, and Consumer Operations EVP Kip Mayo. Greenflield says that Dolan is taking control of operations because he blames the old guard for allowing the company to lose ”both its technology and marketing edge.” The problem? “We simply do not have enough confidence in Jim Dolan to drive free cash flow growth in 2013 and beyond,” Greenfield says. Cablevision has lost 58.1% of its market value over the last 12 months.
Here’s today’s announcement.
UPDATE, 5:15 AM: Cablevision provided this description of Kristin Dolan’s background and her responsibilities as Senior SVP of of Product Management and Marketing following the departure of Marketing EVP John Hargis: “She is currently focused on brand identity and new product initiatives, and has been with the company for more than 20 years. This includes many years working directly in the Cablevision product group, during which she took a leadership role in the development, launch and continued development of our iO TV digital cable service. For the last three years, she has been running our Strategic Product Development Group, focused on long-range development across all of our services. She is well known and highly regarded in the industry.”
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY 8 PM: Marketing EVP Jonathan Hargis, who has been with the company since 2000, is the latest high level exec to bolt — and that’s sure to leave investors even more baffled than they were before about CEO Jim Dolan’s plans for Cablevision. The official word is that Hargis will resign this month “to pursue other opportunities.” But the company release didn’t name a replacement, which suggests that Jim’s wife Kristin — who’s senior executive vice president of product management and marketing, and a member of the Cablevision board– will play a bigger role. Analysts who have tried to determine how broad a mandate she has, and how Jim plans to manage things, say that they’ve yet to hear satisfying answers. Prior to Hargis’ departure, BTIG’s Rich Greenfield urged management explain
The fear for a lot of investors is that Madison Square Garden Chairman Jim Dolan has too many agendas that will lead him to avoid compromising with Time Warner Cable in their dispute over payments for channels including regional sports powers MSG and MSG+. Madison Square Garden shares fell 1.4% today — a contrast to the overall market which was up about 1.6% — after Dolan yanked the services from Time Warner Cable on New Year’s Day when their carriage contract expired. The companies remain far apart on terms, and don’t even have plans to resume negotiations. That’s a big risk for MSG: Time Warner Cable accounts for about 2.5M MSG subscribers, about a third of its total. The $112M that the cable company pays annually for the channels amounts to about half of Madison Square Garden’s estimated cash flow for its current fiscal year. But execs close to both companies say that Dolan is determined to show that he’s no pushover. The part time blues guitarist knows he’d probably have to kiss MSG’s music channel Fuse goodbye if he allows Time Warner Cable to drop it — something the pay TV company says it wants to do because so few people watch it. Dolan’s main job as CEO of Cablevision gives him an additional incentive to show his moxie. Time Warner Cable has long pined to
You can have your pick of rumors this morning about why COO Tom Rutledge suddenly decided to leave — and what it means for Cablevision’s future. Maybe he had a falling out with Charles and Jim Dolan, who control the No. 7 cable operator (including Verizon and AT&T in the pack). Maybe Rutledge got a better offer to run Charter. Maybe the Dolans decided to try again to take Cablevision private — or to sell the company, logically to Time Warner Cable considering how many adjoining systems the companies have in the New York area. But since nobody really knows, investors are left to fear that the departure of one of the industry’s most respected operators means there’s trouble ahead: Cablevision shares opened down 13%. If that holds, then it would shave about $506M from the company’s market value and take the stock to its lowest point in more than two years. Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce lowered his stock recommendation to “hold” from “buy” — and lowered his short-term price target to $15 from $22 –saying that the news “puts a question mark over