Don't tell David Krone you can never go home again. The 35-year-old wunderkind is back at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) after leaving in December 2000, three months into the job.
Mentor Leo Hindery had asked Krone to come work at GlobalCenter, the Internet subsidiary of now-defunct Global Crossing in Sunnyvale, Calif. It was an offer Krone couldn't refuse. But Global Crossing was sold when the Internet bubble burst, and Krone again went with Hindery—his old boss from Tele-Communications Inc.—this time to head up marketing efforts at the new Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network in New York City.
When NCTA President Robert Sachs asked Krone to come finish the job at the cable lobby a year and a half later, Krone decided it was time to return to Washington, the only place he feels he can call home after 10-plus years of moving around the country.
Now Krone is back in the middle of two industries he loves: cable and politics. Although he is young, his experience runs deep, and he is known as a deft political strategist. That skill and a close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) almost won him a seat on the FCC last year, but Krone rejected Daschle's offer in September, choosing baseball over telecommunications regulation.
Krone returns to D.C. and NCTA with new experience under his belt, including a couple of years as the top marketer at an Internet firm and a cable network.
Those two years have made a big difference. "I'm in a 100% better position now than I was when I came here in October 2000," he says. "Now I understand what Silicon Valley is all about, and I understand the technology better."
Sachs agrees with that assessment, adding that Krone has been his first choice for the No. 2 job ever since he took over at NCTA three years ago.
"If anything, David enhanced his skill set in the interim," Sachs says. "He has enormous talents, whether with political strategy, public-relations strategy, organizing a coalition or working with people. He worked in the cable business before all this, so he understands the operators' perspective. Coming from working at YES, he also has an appreciation of the programmers' perspective."
Krone should have ample opportunity to use his new marketing skills: Cable operators could use someone to paint a rosy picture of them to Wall Street while educating Capitol Hill on the opportunities and challenges cable faces.
Times have changed for the industry, particularly since Adelphia's Rigas family became the subject of federal criminal investigations for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from the company. Cable companies are taking a hit as the economy flounders, even though cable earnings and cash flow have never looked better. What's more, Washington is keenly aware that broadband deployment, in which cable is the market leader, could be the next great economic stimulator. And the more politicos focus on broadband, the more careful cable has to be not to become an unwitting target.
"Now we have to aggressively start making people aware of what we have done since passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act," Krone says, citing such developments as digital telephony, digital cable, high-speed Internet access and bundled services. "The industry is doing great things, and we have to let people know that."
Sachs says his team, with himself and Krone at the top, is ready to do that: "It's been a totally seamless transition."
Says Krone, "This was a chance to come finish business." And this time, he doesn't plan to leave anytime soon.