The cable industry received a wake-up call this morning when Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, announced that Neil Smit was leaving his CEO post at Charter to become president of Comcast Cable Communications.
On the flip side, Charter Communications said Michael Lovett, who is the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, will serve as its interim president and CEO.
Smit’s resignation is effective Feb. 28, and he is slated to move to Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters with his wife and family in order to start work there in March.
Smit was at the helm of the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator during its pre-arranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which the company emerged from in November.
At Comcast, Smit will be responsible for all business aspects of the company’s cable operations. Comcast said Smit will report to COO Steve Burke, who will take on increased responsibilities with Comcast’s NBC Universal venture.
Division executives reporting to Smit include: Tony Werner, executive vice president and CTO; John Schanz, executive vice president of national engineering and technology operations; David Scott, executive vice president of finance and administration; and David Watson, executive vice president of operations.
“Neil is widely respected throughout the cable industry as a strong leader with deep knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of topics. We look forward to having him on our team as he helps take us to the next level of our company’s evolution,” said Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts.
Smit served as Charter’s CEO and director since 2005. Prior to joining Charter, he was the president of Time Warner’s America Online Access Business, overseeing Internet access services, including the America Online (AOL), CompuServe and Netscape ISPs.
He also served at AOL as executive vice president of member services, and as COO of MapQuest.
For five-and-a-half years, Smit served on active duty with Navy SEALs teams and retired from the service as a lieutenant commander.
While at Charter, Smit served on the boards of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CableLabs and C-Span.
Charter said the company’s board of directors will conduct a national search for a new CEO. Charter said it would consider both internal and external candidates for the position.
“The entire organization is grateful to Neil for his leadership and many contributions to Charter, particularly during the company’s recently completed financial restructuring,” said Eric Zinterhofer, Charter’s chairman of the board. “We all wish Neil the very best in his new role at Comcast.
“While we launch a search for a new chief executive officer, the company will continue to benefit from the strong team that Neil has developed, especially from the leadership of Mike Lovett. Mike brings considerable experience to his position and will ensure a seamless transition as we search for Neil’s replacement,” added Zinterhofer.
As COO and executive vice president, Lovett is responsible for the oversight of Charter’s two operating divisions and company-wide customer care.
He was promoted to executive vice president of operations and customer care in 2004, and to his current position in 2005. Lovett joined Charter in 2003 as senior vice president of operations support.
Lovett’s career in cable television began in 1980 with Centel Communications, where he held a number of positions in operations. He was with Jones Intercable from 1989 to 1999, rising to senior vice president with responsibility for operations in nine states. And he was with AT&T Broadband as regional vice president of operations from June 1999 to November 2000.