Cable industry vet Michael Willner will serve as president and CEO of “SpinCo,” the new cable company with 2.5 million subscribers that Comcast will spin off after its acquisition of Time Warner Cable under Comcast’s deal with Charter.
Willner was a co-founder and CEO of Insight Communications from 1985 through 2012, when Time Warner Cable acquired Insight. In the new role, he will oversee the operations of “SpinCo,” which will serve approximately 2.5 million customers in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
“A skilled operator with an impressive track record of success, Michael has been a pillar of leadership and an active ambassador for the Industry,” Rutledge said in a statement.
Added Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, “Michael is an excellent leader and the perfect choice to be at the helm of this new company. His deep knowledge of the cable business, combined with his experience and focus on technology, will enable him to drive growth and product innovation for customers and position SpinCo as a competitor in the industry.”
The formation of SpinCo is part of the deal struck between Charter and Comcast, under which Charter is set to become the nation’s second-largest cable operator with 8.2 million customers after it acquires some 3.9 million video subscribers from Comcast following its takeover of Time Warner Cable. Comcast will initially own 67% of SpinCo while Charter will own 33%; once all the divesting deals are completed, Comcast will have no ownership stake in that company.
Charter, backed by John Malone’s Liberty Media, was in the hunt to acquire Time Warner Cable. But Comcast outbid it with an offer of $45 billion in February. Under the deal with Comcast, Charter stands to boost its reach to 8.2 million subscribers.
SpinCo will have a nine-member board of directors, three of whom will be appointed by Charter, including Charter president and CEO Tom Rutledge, who will serve as non-executive chairman. Comcast will appoint three of the remaining six members of the board and will select three more from a list provided by Charter. These six board members will be independent of both Charter and Comcast. In addition, Charter will have a services agreement with SpinCo.
Willner started in cable in 1974 at Vision Cable Communications, a division of Advanced Publications and a part of the Newhouse family’s media investments. Most recently he has been president and CEO of privately held Penthera Partners, a software company focused on cloud-to-mobile technology, in which he will remain involved as a board member.