Cablevision's fuzzy picture

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http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-...67.story?coll=n
y-business-headlines


Two Dolans launch Web site to keep Voom satellite alive after James Dolan
and board voted to close it


BY HARRY BERKOWITZ
STAFF WRITER

March 3, 2005

The Dolan family struggle over shutting down Cablevision's Voom satellite TV
service has become a war of the Web sites.

Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan and his son Tom, the Voom
chief executive, launched a new renegade Web site yesterday at voomllc.com
proclaiming "Voom Still Delivers" even though on Monday the Cablevision
board, backed by corporate chief executive James Dolan, decided to shut Voom
down rather than hand it over to Charles and Tom.

The feud has split James Dolan from his two brothers, Tom and Patrick, and
father, Charles, who are also on the board and who want Voom kept alive. The
Dolans control Cablevision, the nation's sixth-largest cable TV service.

Voom, which features high-definition channels, competes with DirecTV and
Dish Network but has attracted only 46,000 subscribers and has posted huge
losses.

The new Web site encouraged potential subscribers to contact the Voom call
center, where customer service representatives were still taking new orders,
including installation in up to three rooms for $1.

The old Web site, voom.com, ran a very different message authorized by
Cablevision management for the second day: "Voom has ceased taking new
customer orders and will shut down by the end of March."

Confusion reigned among employees of Jericho-based Voom, who were told that
Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge wanted the call center
closed. "Everyone looked really pale," a Voom insider said of the reaction
of employees. "It's pretty glum."

Rutledge, who is based at Cablevision headquarters in Bethpage, sent a
notice to some Voom employees that they will be laid off permanently,
probably between Friday and March 31, as part of the shutdown of Voom. The
service employs several dozen workers.

"I've been directed to close it down, which I'm in the process of doing,"
Rutledge, who was appointed by James Dolan to oversee the shutdown, said at
a Bear Stearns investor conference in Palm Beach, Fla.

When asked about the conflicting signals, a Voom customer service
representative said, "The various announcements have yet to be resolved" and
encouraged a caller to sign up for the "Va Va Voom" programming package.

"There are still some people that will stick with Mr. Dolan to the very end
because it's Mr. Dolan," a Voom insider said of the 78-year-old Cablevision
chairman and founder.

Among those people are Tom, 52, and Patrick, 53, who along with Charles were
among the four board members who voted in December not to abandon Voom,
sources said yesterday. But they were outvoted by nine other board members,
including James, 49.

Patrick, who is president of the company's News 12 Networks, is firmly in
his "father's column," a source close to the board said.

This is not the first time Patrick and James have been at odds. In 2001,
Patrick told News 12 employees not to wear American flag lapel pins during
telecasts so as not to appear biased by patriotic emotions after the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks. James Dolan hinted that he opposed the ban but would
not override it and said Cablevision would give all company employees a free
flag.
 
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