Former Cablevision exec to join cable op in Feb.

Tom Rutledge, who ankled Cablevision as chief operating officer late last week, has been named CEO of Charter Communications, the St. Louis-based cable company announced Monday.

He joins Charter immediately and will become president and chief executive effective Feb. 13. He was also named to the board of directors. He will keep his home in New York and split his time between there and Charter’s two hubs in St. Louis and Denver.

Rutledge, 58, and considered one of the best cable executives in the business, had been chief operating officer of Cablevision, in Long Island, since 2004. The veteran exec previously worked at Time Warner Cable.

He succeeds Michael Lovett, who announced in October plans to step down as Charter CEO by April of 2012 unless a replacement was found sooner. Lovett will stay on until February to help the transition.

A rep for Charter, the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator, said Rutledge wasn’t commenting further on his move just yet, the first part of which was the abrupt departure from Cablevision that shocked Wall Street and industry insiders. Rutledge and Cablevision CEO James Dolan were said to be at odds although neither side gave any reason for his departure.

Speculation started immediately, however, that he might be tapped for the open Charter job. Before Rutledge left, another highly regarded former Cablevision exec who resigned earlier this year, John Bickham, was said to be in pole position for the Charter CEO post.

Charter said in an SEC filing Monday that Rutledge’s four-year contract carries a base salary of $2 million with a target bonus of 175% of that and equity awards of 1.26 million shares of common stock.

The news was announced after the market closed resulting in an abrupt reversal in Charter’s share price. Shares slipped 3.26% during the day to close at $52.74, before jumping 3.25% in after-hours trading.

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