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Charter execs say "All's well"

Charter Communications Inc.'s remaining senior executives sought to calm investors fears about the company, saying that operations are stable and will exceed goals for new product sales this year.

COO David Barford and CFO Kent Kalkwaf appeared at Goldman Sachs & Co.'s annual Communicopia media conference Thursday to emphasize that the angry exit of CEO Jerry Kent will not disrupt the company's cable systems. Barford said that while Kent is "a terrific leader, one man does not make a company." He emphasized that Charter is run under a decentralized management philosophy that grants a lot of control to regional and local system managers. And, so far, those managers are sticking around.

Charters' "industry-leading operating results are being driven by a loyal cadre of executives," Barford said. The personality clash between Kent and Charter controlling shareholder Paul Allen did not extend to lower management, he contended.

Barford and Kalkwarf each signed four-year contracts with Charter over the weekend that gave them so-far undisclosed raises over their previous $225,000-$255,000 annual salaries plus a load of options at the rock-bottom price of $11.25 per share.

Charter's stock had been trading around $18 the week before Kent's exit, but dropped 40% before rebounding last week to around $14.

The executives would not say when Kent's replacement would be named or acknowledge reports from industry executives that that Liberty Media senior vice president Carl Vogel is the front runner for the job. Liberty Chairman Dobb Bennett, however, joked that "we think of ourselves as the General Electric of the industy with people raiding us."
- John M. Higgins