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Former Cablevision Exec Tatta Dies

Former Cablevision Systems Corp. president John Tatta died Feb. 3 from bone-cancer complications, Cablevision said Friday.

Tatta, 84, continued to influence Cablevision after his retirement through his role on the board of directors, Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan said.

“Whatever we were discussing, everything would stop and you would hear John Tatta’s opinion,” Dolan said. “It was often very persuasive because everybody understood that John knew our company and the business that we were in.”

Tatta served as president of Cablevision from 1981 until his retirement in 1992. The cable pioneer first joined Cablevision predecessor Sterling Manhattan Cable Television in 1966, and helped the company cablecast New York Knicks and Rangers games from Madison Square Garden in 1967.

Dolan later sold Sterling to Time Inc., and in 1973, Tatta helped Dolan launch Cablevision and the company’s first cable systems in Long Island, N.Y. Tatta played a key role in helping Cablevision expand its franchise areas beyond Long Island, and he was also heavily involved in marketing and finance.

Dolan described Tatta as a team builder. “He was a very compassionate individual. He was somebody who was pragmatic, and he was very enterprising. He understood people,” Dolan said.

In 1987, Tatta gave grand-jury testimony against John Zaccaro, the husband of 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Tatta had alleged that Zaccaro demanded $1 million from Cablevision when it sought a franchise in Queens, N.Y. Zaccaro was acquitted.

Born in New York City in 1920, Tatta attended Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, and studied civil engineering at City College of New York.

He entered the job market in 1943 as an installer for Dictograph, an interoffice communications equipment company, where he worked for 23 years in various positions before joining Dolan at the Sterling system in 1966.

Tatta also served on the boards of directors at St. Francis Hospital, the National Cable Television Association and the Columbus Citizens Association.

Tatta is survived by his wife Anne, two daughters and eight grandchildren.