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Dealmaker Ratner Adds MSG Title

Hank Ratner, one of Cablevision Systems Corp.'s key dealmakers, added a new title last week, but stressed that it was not an indication of bigger deals on the immediate horizon.

Ratner, already vice chairman of Cablevision, added the title of vice chairman of the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO's Madison Square Garden unit last week. Ratner, who became vice chairman of Cablevision in January, will continue that role in addition to his new one.

Ratner has had his hands in practically every major deal Cablevision has done since joining the company as assistant general counsel in 1987. Most recently, Ratner was instrumental in negotiating the sale of Rainbow's Bravo network to General Electric Co.'s NBC television unit in 2002.

An Existing Focus

Among his many other deals include negotiations with News Corp., which led to the creation of Fox Sports Net — and to Fox's $850 million investment in Rainbow Media's sports properties — and Cablevision's purchase of Madison Square Garden, which includes the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks, the National Hockey League's New York Rangers and the MSG Network.

Ratner said in an interview that his focus won't necessarily be on deal making, but rather on MSG's overall strategy.

"Since coming back over to Cablevision, I have been spending a lot of my time with [Cablevision CEO] Jim [Dolan] focusing on the general direction and strategy of the company," Ratner said. "Since MSG is an integral piece of the company, it just seemed a logical extension. "My background is in the sports and entertainment side of the business. I hope to add value."

But, he added, he won't turn a good deal down either.

"I'll participate with Jim in helping to look over the organization and its general direction, and if there are deal opportunities, we'll find them," Ratner said. "But this isn't being done with any particular deal focus in mind at the moment."

In his new role, Ratner will join MSG's office of the chairman, which oversees its sports teams (the Knicks, Rangers and the WNBA New York Liberty), entertainment properties, MSG Network, the MSG arena complex, Radio City Music Hall and the Hartford Civic Center.

The office of the chairman is led by James Dolan, who also serves as chairman of Madison Square Garden. Additional members include: Seth Abraham, president of Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment; Scott Layden, president and general manager of the New York Knicks; Steve Mills, president of sports team operations; and Glen Sather, president, general manager and head coach of the New York Rangers.

Ratner is essentially replacing Robert Lemle, who retired as vice chairman and general counsel of Cablevision in January.

"Hank has been instrumental in developing and implementing the strategic direction of the overall company," Dolan said in a statement. "We also rely on his thoughtful judgment, insights and leadership as we have pursued strategic initiatives and transactions that have contributed to Rainbow and Cablevision's growth as well as the development of our sports business.

Ratner also said that while he is taking on the same title as Lemle, his role won't be the same.

"It's the same title, I'm not sure my function will be as his [Lemle's] was," Ratner said. "I've worked with Jim a long time, and with [Cablevision chairman] Chuck [Dolan] as well. We work well together. We obviously had a pretty active year at Cablevision. We're just going to put that same focus we've been putting over on the cable side over on the MSG side."

10-Q Delayed

In an unrelated announcement, Cablevision said it would need more time to file its 10-Q financial report for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, because of additional improperly accrued expenses an independent investigator discovered in November.

Cablevision said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday it is delaying the 10-Q filing while it restates financial results to reflect about $15 million in improperly accrued expenses related to its Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. unit and other divisions.

On Nov. 11, Cablevision said those expenses were accrued in 2002 and earlier years, but should have been recorded in 2003. As a result, Cablevision said at the time that it would revise its financial results for the first, second and third quarters of 2003 to reflect those changes.

Cablevision gave no time frame for when it expects to file the 10-Q, but had said on Nov.11 that it expected the restatements and revisions to be completed no later than the end of the month.