Comcast aims to climb to top of digital world (1 Viewer)

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Amid criticism on a number of fronts, Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp., assured stockholders Thursday that he and his board were poised to take the company to the top of the digital heap with more choice and value in television, telephone and online.

Buoyed by strong first-quarter results and accolades for recent advertising campaigns that mimic a TV game show and feature a pair of turtles called the Slowskys who hate the speed of Comcast's Internet delivery, Roberts said the company is ready "to build on its integrated experience.

About 50 stockholders attended the 90-minute meeting held at the Wachovia Center, a venue that more frequently seats some 20,000 Flyers or 76ers fans.

With 22.4 million customers, Comcast is the nation's largest cable company. Its customers pay an average of $77 to $84 a month for a variety of services.

After watching the humorous television commercials and listening to Roberts' predictions for growth, Sondra Lippi of Haddonfield said all she wanted out of Comcast was a profit.

"As an investor, I'm here to make money and I haven't made any," said Lippi, as she cursed Roberts and his company.

In response, Roberts said he would try harder, but he could not control the stock market. "You could always sell," he added.

Another stockholder who arrived at the meeting by train from Baltimore said he made a cool $40,000 on 8,000 shares of Comcast that he purchased at $26 per share.

"Thank you, Comcast," said Michael Schaeffer.

Another issue that dominated stockholders' remarks was union representation.

A Pittsburgh priest and stockholder, who said he represented more than 100 pro-union clergy across the country, accused Comcast of being "hostile" to organized labor. He asked Roberts to amend the company's code of ethics to include "the right to form unions."

About 2 percent of Comcast's 70,000 employees are represented by unions.

Citing workplace satisfaction surveys, Roberts said most Comcast employees are happy with the company, its culture and their compensation.

Rita Hodge Sellers, a retired college administrator from Blue Bell, Pa., who owns 70 shares of Comcast, said her issues with the company have more to do with service and composition of its 12-member board than money.

"I'm not dissatisfied with the stock. But I'd like to have more choice in cable channels that come into my house than these packages that we have to buy to get what we want. I also think one African-American board member is better than nothing, but not enough."

Comcast's board rejected all five shareholder resolutions that appeared on the meeting agenda, including one to oust Roberts as CEO. Walt Disney shareholders were successful in 2004 in ousting CEO Michael Eisner from chairing its board, citing a concentration of too much power.

Richard A. Dee, a stockholder from Manhattan, submitted the following statement to the board that was read at the meeting.

"At Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other legends of mismanagement and corruption, the chairmen also served as CEO. Their dual roles helped those individuals immensely to achieve virtually total control of the companies. If a CEO wants to cover up corporate improprieties, how difficult is it to convince subordinates to go along? If they disagree, to whom do they complain? The chairman?"

Other rejected proposals from stockholders included a request to limit compensation for all management to $500,000 a year and to end the practice of rewarding management with stock options.

http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060519/BUSINESS/605190346/1003
 

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