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Harron’s Halfway There

With less than six months under his belt as chairman and CEO of Harron Communications LP, but almost four years into his current quest, Joel Cohen has reached the halfway point in returning the Frazer, Pa.-based independent cable operator back to its former glory, a strategy he planned out with late Harron chairman Paul Harron Jr.

Harron’s recent agreement — through wholly owned subsidiary Metrocast Communications — to buy Eastern Connecticut Cable Television will add another 38,000 subscribers to the company, which has about 107,000 subscribers in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine and Virginia. New York-based cable investment banker Waller Capital Corp. served as the exclusive financial adviser to the seller.

Cohen was named chairman of Harron in January (he had already been CEO), after Harron’s death a month earlier. Also at that time, Harron’s nephew, chief operating officer James Bruder Jr., added the title of president.

Cohen, who had worked for Harron in the past before becoming a partner in New York-based cable investor Avalon Cable, rejoined the company in 2002. At that time, he said, he and Paul Harron mapped out plans to return the operator to at least 300,000 subscribers, the level the company was at before it sold its systems to Adelphia Communications Corp. in 1999.

In an interview, Cohen said that back in 2002, Harron saw the cable industry on the verge of a “third coming” by adding high-speed Internet services and telephony to existing video offerings. Harron had retained only about 30,000 subscribers, mainly in New Hampshire, after the Adelphia deal.

In the past four years, Harron’s cable operation has grown to about 107,000 subscribers through organic growth and acquisitions.

The Eastern Connecticut Cable deal will push Metrocast to about 145,000 customers.

“From a strategic growth point of view we’ve now gotten to [about] 150,000 subscribers of that 300,000 [subscribers] Paul and I set out to work on,” Cohen said. “That’s where we’re headed.

“I don’t think we’ve changed one bit. I think if he [Harron] were alive today he would be saying 'Right on guys, keep going.’ ”

Cohen said he has no specific timeframe for reaching the 300,000 level, by a combination of internal growth and through acquisitions.

Cohen also said a Harron plans to begin rolling out telephone service in New Hampshire early next year.