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Charter Taps Michael Huseby as CFO

Charter Communications Inc. continued to revamp its management team last week, hiring former AT&T Broadband executive Michael Huseby as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Huseby will report to Charter CEO Carl Vogel and will be responsible for all accounting matters, financial reporting, financial planning and analysis, and information technology.

Charter had been without a permanent CFO ever since Kent Kalkwarf was fired from the position in December 2002.

Kalkwarf, along with former chief operating officer Dave Barford, former senior vice president David McCall and former senior vice president James "Trey" Smith were indicted on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy in July.

McCall pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy that same month and is expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

The other executives have claimed their innocence.

Since Kalkwarf resigned, the CFO position had been filled on an interim basis by Charter executive vice president and chief administrative officer Steve Schumm. Schumm continues in his previous position.

Huseby was named executive vice president of finance and administration and CFO at AT&T Broadband in 1999 and stayed on through the MSO's sale to Comcast Corp. in November 2002.

Since leaving AT&T Broadband, Huseby has been president of his own management and consulting firm, MPH Consulting Inc.

In addition to financial expertise, Huseby also has operational experience, which will come in handy as Charter transitions from an acquisitions-based and rebuild-based company to an operating company.

At the Citigroup Smith Barney Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications conference in Phoenix last week, Vogel said that Charter spent most of 2003 realigning its operating structure and shoring up its balance sheet. This year, he said, Charter will focus on building on its strong digital-able penetration —at 41%, the highest in the industry — to offer new services.

Charter is already doing that to an extent: It has HDTV in 31 markets, interactive television service in 40% of its markets, has launched digital video recorders in four areas and is trialing voice-over-Internet protocol service in Wisconsin.

Vogel said that Charter will aggressively deploy new services in 2004, adding that DVRs launched in four California markets in December are already exceeding Charter's expectations.

At the conference, Vogel said that 50% of Charter's customer base takes basic and expanded basic cable, but accounts for only 35% of revenue.

The other 50% of customers who take digital and other advanced services, account for 62% of revenue.

"We've got to focus on advanced services," Vogel said.

Vogel also plans to expand Charter's marketing budget, slashed considerably last year in an effort to keep its costs down.