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Dolan Elevates Close Aides at Cablevision

Cablevision Systems CEO James Dolan shook up his senior leadership team last week and didn’t have to look much past his own dinner table.

In what the company called its ongoing effort to transform the MSO into a more customer-focused organization and streamline day-to-day operations, Dolan elevated his wife, longtime Cablevi s ion executive Kristin Dolan to president of Optimum Services and created a new position — senior executive vice president, strategy — for his brother-in-law Brian Sweeney. Dolan also tapped longtime tech guru Wilt Hildenbrand as a senior adviser.

TRANSITION POINT

With industry-leading penetration rates in nearly every cable category, Cablevision has recently been the victim of its own success, trying diligently to squeeze growth out of its core New York City metro-area footprint. Its management ranks have also been strained since longtime chief operating officer Tom Rutledge abruptly resigned in December 2011, later becoming CEO of Charter Communications.

After Rutledge’s departure, several top executives, including marketing executive vice president Jonathan Hargis, EVP of corporate technology and engineering Jim Blackley and EVP of customer operations Kathleen Mayo, followed him out the door.

CEO Dolan has spearheaded an 18-point plan to put Cablevision back on the growth track, including the introduction of new products and services. In recent months, the MSO has unveiled several initiatives such as relaunching its Optimum brand, introducing its Onyx user interface and programming guide and raising rates on its high-speed data service.

The leadership changes seem to be another part of that strategy, and some analysts saw the announcements as a formality, adding that the company has essentially been running under that structure for months. Others saw them as providing additional clarity to what had been a murky part of the business.

“I think that Cablevision has a nice array of new product and cost initiatives in queue but optics on management appointments are an issue,” Wunderlich Securities media analyst Matt Harrigan said.

As president of Optimum Services, Kristin Dolan, who most recently headed up the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO’s new marketing and rebranding campaigns as senior executive vice president, product management, marketing and development, will be responsible for the entire Optimum customer experience, as well as Optimum brand positioning. In addition to leading all product-development and marketing efforts, she now will also oversee the company’s sales initiatives related to Cablevision’s Optimum TV digital cable, Optimum Online high-speed Internet and Optimum Voice products.

As part of his his newly created position, Sweeney, a Cablevision director since 2005 and senior vice president of eMedia at the MSO since 2000, will oversee corporate strategy, including the long-term planning process, as well as the company’s key strategic growth initiatives centered on customer retention and acquisition. Sweeney, who is married to James Dolan’s sister, Deborah Dolan-Sweeney, also will serve as chief of staff to the CEO, working closely with the entire executive leadership team.

HILDENBRAND ROLES

Longtime Cablevision technology guru Wilt Hildenbrand will become senior adviser — customer care, technology and networks. In this role, he will continue to lead Cablevision’s technology strategy and evolving network architecture, including the development of next-generation consumer systems and technologies. He will also oversee Cablevision’s customer-service and field-service organizations, working to develop and implement strategies to ensure a superior customer experience.

“Each of these executives brings more than two decades of experience to these new roles and they have provided exemplary leadership to Cablevision throughout their careers,” James Dolan said in a statement.