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So You Want to Be Charter’s New CEO?

For anyone contemplating assuming the CEO spot at Charter Communications Inc., chairman Paul Allen has a few words for you: You had better be an executive with operational savvy, a passion for the business and some experience in the high-tech field.

Charter announced Tuesday that president and CEO Carl Vogel has resigned, replaced in the interim by Charter board member and HealthSouth Corp. nonexecutive chairman Bob May. May also has extensive experience in the cable industry -- he was chief operating officer of Cablevision Systems Corp. from 1996-98.

A four-person committee of Charter’s board of directors is currently searching for a permanent president and CEO.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Allen said the ideal candidate will have an arsenal of talents.

“Certainly, [the new CEO will be] somebody who has operational aptitude and experience, has a passion for these kinds of business,” Allen said. “We’re very fortunate in Bob to have somebody who has worked in telecommunications, worked at Cablevision in the past, so, probably, somebody who has experience in high technology.”

He added, “We’re going to look both inside the cable industry and outside the cable industry. A huge point of emphasis is going to be sensitivity, understanding and ability to execute on all of these operational and customer facing challenges.”

In the meantime, May will focus on operational issues, mainly in the customer-service arena. Charter has been plagued by basic-subscriber defections -- it shed more than 58,000 basic-video customers in the third quarter, the third straight quarter of losses.

May said that while customer-service improvements won’t totally reverse that trend, they will go a long way toward keeping subscribers on the rolls, especially as Charter rolls out new services like voice-over-Internet-protocol telephony.

“Our call-center performance is not up to my standards. That needs a lot of work,” May said in an interview. “I think the evidence of customer satisfaction -- or dissatisfaction, as represented in churn numbers that are not acceptable -- whether the churn is caused by not executing properly or by competitors, it all boils down to the same thing: We are anxious to deploy new technologies.”

He continued, “You can’t deploy new technologies like voice over IP and have execution that is less than flawless. People aren’t going to stand for picking up the telephone and not having a dial tone.”