U.K.’s Telewest taps Illsley chief exec

Cabler pacts with NTL for franchise stake

LONDON — Telewest, the U.K.’s second-largest cable operator, has appointed Tony Illsley chief executive, filling the gap created after Stephen Davidson was unceremoniously ousted from the post in the spring (Daily Variety, April 17).

Illsley, 42, will assume the post in the fall. He is currently prexy of the PepsiCo-parented Walkers Snack Foods, a post he has held since 1995.

“(Telewest) is now well-past the major build phase and has enormous potential as it develops its product and service range, and deploys customer-focused marketing and communications,” Illsley said. “The forthcoming digital launch will only expand this potential.”

U.K. cable operators plan to launch digital platforms either late this year or early in 1999.

At the same time, Telewest has announced that it has entered into an agreement with NTL, the smallest of the three remaining Brit cable companies, to acquire 27.5% of the local franchise, Birmingham Cable, for $213 million. Those shares are owned by Comcast, a small cable operator that NTL is in the process of taking over.

Telewest and NTL also have set Sept. 30 next year for the rationalization of another local franchise, Cable London, in which both Telewest and Comcast hold a 50% stake.

By that date, NTL must set a price for its shares in Cable London. Telewest will then have the option to buy or, conversely, sell its stake to NTL. Most of Telewest’s shares in Cable London are being acquired through its own acquisition of a smaller operator, General Cable.

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