Dolan down, but not out

New developments in Voom

NEW YORK — Chuck Dolan may be down, but don’t count him out.

The chairman of Cablevision Systems, who is attempting to keep alive the satellite TV service Voom — against the wishes of his company’s board of directors and his son, CEO James — played another card late Wednesday night.

Dolan announced that a majority of the holders of Cablevision Class B stock have elected four new directors and the Class B shareholders will exercise their right to elect 75% of the company’s directors at the next annual meeting, scheduled for May 19.

Dolan owns 54% of the Class B stock, which carries 10 times the voting power of the regular Class A stock.

His announcement indicates he is apparently moving to seize control of the company board, which has opposed his desire to keep the money-losing Voom alive.

The status of Voom was unclear Wednesday, as two different websites gave conflicting information. Voom has “ceased taking new customer orders and will shut down by the end of March,” according to the unsparing message that fills the screen at Voom.com.

But on the Voomllc.com website, the phone number of Voom is prominently displayed and so is all of the hype: “Not just the Most. The Best TV … Built for HDTV.” The customer-service rep answering a call to the 866 number on Wednesday said Voom is alive and well, with its technicians ready to install the satellite service in your home.

Not so fast, says Cablevision Systems, which has designated Tom Rutledge, its president and chief operating officer, to put Voom — which lost $660 million last year — out of its misery within the next month. Rutledge reinforced that mandate in a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

Chuck and another son, Tom, have been in negotiations with Cablevision to buy enough Voom assets to keep the service running. But, earlier this week, Cablevision said the talks had ended and the company decided to snuff out Voom.

Dolan announced Wednesday that Class B shareholders have have elected Rand Araskog, Frank J. Biondi, Jr., John Malone and Leonard Tow to the board of directors. The new directors will replace William J. Bell and Sheila Mahony, both of whom recently retired as officers of Cablevision, Steven Rattner and the late John Tatta.

Dolan also said the board of directors will be asked at its next meeting on March 7 to enlarge the board in order to permit Class B shareholders to elect Brian Sweeney to a new seat. Sweeney is a Cablevision senior VP and a son-in-law of Dolan.

Cablevision and Dolan declined further comment.

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