Ever since Hurricane Katrina catapulted him to the national stage, Ray Nagin, who ran Cox Communications’ New Orleans system before he became the city’s mayor, has been the most prominent cable executive to win elected office.
But after upsetting three-term U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic primary last week, Ned Lamont may soon claim that dubious honor from Nagin.
While Lamont is regularly identified as a cable executive, he is not well-known in the industry—and little, if any, has been reported about his cable career.
That’s because Lamont Digital Systems is known to cable wonks as a “private” system. Private cable operators serve pockets of private dwellings, typically large apartment complexes or subdivisions—in effect, skimming the cream from local cable systems, which view operators like Lamont as pariahs.
“We’re not part of the club,” says Pete Daly, a former Lamont Digital executive now at equipment vendor Blonder Tongue.
Colleges are Lamont Digital’s niche. Its Campus Televideo unit serves 130 colleges, with 175,000 subscribers in dorm rooms, classrooms, offices and videoconferencing facilities.
Though considered healthy and free of debt, Lamont Digital is not as valuable as a conventional cable operator. A similarly sized operator might be worth $350 million; industry executives estimate Lamont Digital’s worth at
$60 million. According to federal disclosure reports, Lamont’s personal stake is worth less than $5 million.
Lamont and his private-
equity partners tried to sell the company two years ago but pulled it off the market.
Given public antipathy toward cable companies, you can see why Lamont’s signature issue was withdrawing U.S troops from Iraq. Beats having to say: “I’m a cable executive, and I’d like your vote.”