Sanders, Payer Out At MSO Millennium

Millennium Digital Media Inc. overhauled its management late last month, after it shifted focus from making acquisitions to operating its existing systems.

Gone are two of Millennium's co-founders, chairman Charles Payer and vice chairman and chief financial officer Jeff Sanders. Both executives resigned in late November.

Millennium CEO Kelvin Westbrook, another co-founder, remains and has assumed Payer's duties, senior vice president of marketing Peter Smith said. He said former Millennium senior vice president of finance Steven Cochran is the new CFO.

"Jeff and Chuck's forte is in mergers and acquisitions, and the company has slowed the pace of that," Smith said. "We're in an operations mode instead of an M&A mode."

Sanders and Payer did not return calls for comment.

St. Louis-based Millennium has about 165,000 cable subscribers and 110,000 dial-up Internet customers in Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Millennium offers digital cable to virtually all of its subscribers, either through its own network or via AT&T Broadband's HITS2Home, said Smith. He said the company has about 23,000 digital customers and roughly 17,000 high-speed data customers.

Millennium's properties are a mixture of franchised cable systems, overbuilds and a small number of satellite master antenna TV (SMATV) systems.

Its biggest operations include a system in Ann Arundel County, Md. — an overbuild of a Comcast Corp. system — and one in Seattle. The Seattle systems, formerly owned by Summit Communications Inc., are an overbuild of AT&T Broadband's operations.

Smith said the departure of Millenium's two top executives did not signal that the company is for sale. He also said the recent credit crunch, which caused several overbuilders to scale back their expansion plans, did not prompt Millennium's change in focus.

"I don't think anybody has had an easy time raising capital," Smith said. "Everybody's counting on an improvement in the economy. It doesn't matter whether you're a competitive provider or a monopoly provider, we're all in a recession."

Sanders and Payer started Millennium in 1998, mainly to acquire cable operations in secondary markets. Sanders had been CFO at Charter Communications Inc. before its owners sold out to Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen.

Payer, who was a St. Louis telecom consultant when he co-founded Millennium, had been head of mergers and acquisitions at SBC Communications Inc.

Smith said both Sanders and Payer continue to consult for Millennium and both remain investors. The company's largest investor is Stamford, Conn.-based private equity fund TSG Capital Group LLC.