After clashing with controlling shareholder Paul Allen and his lieutenants, Charter Communications President and CEO Jerry Kent is exiting the company.
With his contract up in 90 days, Kent had until Monday to say whether he planned to work out a renewal and early in the day gathered up his top officers to tell them he was leaving. Industry executives attributed much of the problem to a personality clash between Kent, Allen and Allen's top lieutenant Bill Savoy. But Kent was long an entrepreneur, has consistently strong operating results and was a success in a the Microsoft co-founder's multibillion porfolio. Other investments include failed or troubled companies like Value America, Beyond.com, Reel.com, Pop.com, Mercata and Priceline.com.
"They wanted a certain level of respect, and Jerry wasn't willing to give it," said one industry executive.
Kent wouldn't go into details. "I've been discussing this with the board and with Paul and thinking about it for a long time.. When I step back and look at what is going on professionally and personally this was best for the company and for me."
Investors hated the move. Charter's stock dropped 20% on the news. "Jerry's delivered better numbers than anyone in cable," said one media analyst. "Who's going to do better? And how much of the management team will stay when Jerry's gone."
Charter put out a statement early Monday saying that Kent would leave the CEO post Dec. 23, and quit the board of directors at the end of this week. He agreed to serve as a consultant for "the balance of the year," which, of course, would be one whole week. That looks a move to issue Kent compensation that would receive favorable tax treatment. Kent is expected to move out of Charter's St. Louis offices by Friday. - John M. Higgins