TCI spins Howard into new post

Vet exec to take helm of high tech business development unit

Tele-Communications Inc. veteran Gary S. Howard has been named president and CEO of the cable giant’s new TCI Ventures Group.

TCI Ventures is the company’s high-tech business development unit that also makes up TCI’s international telephone and cable TV operations. TCI is the nation’s largest cable system operator, with more than 14 million domestic subscribers.

As head of TCI Ventures, Howard will report to TCI prexy Leo Hindery Jr. In addition, Howard will continue in his current posts as CEO of TCI Satellite Entertainment and chairman and CEO of United Video Satellite Group.

However, TCI Satellite Entertainment is expected to be folded next year into Primestar Partners, TCI’s direct broadcast satellite venture with Time Warner Cable and four other cable MSOs. Primestar in turn, is expected to change its name and become a publicly traded entity distinct from its cable parent companies.

TCI officials were not available for comment last week, but TCI-watchers viewed Howard’s appointment as a move by the cable giant to hang on to one of its senior execs in the wake of the TCI Satellite Entertainment-Primestar Partners rollup.

That process also involves Primestar’s acquisition of News Corp.’s American Sky Broadcasting satellite TV assets. The Primestar conversion plan has been stuck in regulatory-review limbo ever since the agreement with News Corp. was announced in June.

“Gary has had a long and distinguished association with TCI and many of its related entities,” Hindery said in announcing the appointment. “He is an extremely talented executive who has led a diverse and challenging range of businesses on behalf of TCI.”

Howard came to TCI in 1991 as part of the company’s buyout of United Artists Entertainment Co. Before heading TCI Satellite Entertainment, Howard served as senior veepee of mergers and acquisitions for TCI Communications.

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