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Leo at the bat

Sep 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Leo Hindery is back!
He is a perennial Yankees fan, a sports car racer, a cattle rancher, a cable mogul and a friend to the high-powered cable visionary John Malone and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
During the time between Mr. Hindery’s departure from AT&T Broadband and the cable industry in 1999 and the time he began managing his family’s HL Capital investment portfolio in January 2001, he served as chairman and chief executive of GlobalCenter.
Mr. Hindery, who loves a good challenge, spoke to Electronic Media’s Editor at Large Diane Mermigas about his return to cable and the task before him.
EM: Why do this now? Why come back?
Mr. Hindery: As you get older, life is about proximity to good tickets and great junk food, and I have fulfilled my every aspiration. It will be fun.
EM: Did you miss cable?
Mr. Hindery: I’ve always missed it. It was a lot of fun for me. I’m very fond of these team owners, especially George (Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees), who I have known for a while. For me personally, it is a chance to work again with many of the people who were so helpful to me when I became successful at TCI. You’ll recognize them when we announce their names.
EM: You’re doing this under a three-year contract and as an equity owner?
Mr. Hindery: Yes. I am an equity owner, and I signed a three-year employment agreement.
EM: Does it allow for anything else you wanted to do?
Mr. Hindery: I get to run it. If we come up with ideas, we get to pursue them.
EM: You do have operational control of YES?
Mr. Hindery: Total.
EM: What, ideally, do you want to achieve? Something such as 100 percent coverage on the three major cable operators in the East?
Mr. Hindery: Yes. You’re measured by whether you have a good service, if it is fairly priced and whether you are sensitive to your cable brethren. If you do those things well, you are usually fairly successful.
EM: Cutting deals with the big cable operators in the East-Time Warner, Comcast and Cablevision-could involve some programming.
Mr. Hindery: I don’t know what they will involve. I have done a lot of deals in my career that have involved Cablevision and Comcast, and with Time Warner. I love ’em, and I know ’em, and I’ll try to do a good job for them.
EM: The Cablevision system relationship often is described as being at odds.
Mr. Hindery: Not for me it’s not. The way it’s referred to by me is with a lot of respect. I’m complimentary of what they did because it was their asset for a long time. Now it’s going to be ours. And we’re just succeeding a very nice effort by [Cablevision Systems owners] Jimmy and Chuck [Dolan].
EM: Have you talked to them?
Mr. Hindery: Sure.
EM: Did you broach any of these issues?
Mr. Hindery: No comment.
EM: Are you concerned that Time Warner will try to drag other programming or AOL service into your negotiations with them?
Mr. Hindery: That may be other people’s experiences with Time Warner, but they have been very fair. They have been my friend, and I have tried to be theirs.
EM: How soon do you sit down with the cable operators-this week?
Mr. Hindery: No, we need people aboard to help do it. Probably next week.
EM: Is Mr. Malone going to be involved at all with this?
Mr. Hindery: No, not at all.
EM: What is Amos Hostetter’s role?
Mr. Hindery: He’s just a director.
EM: Although this is a difficult advertising market, isn’t there an opportunity here to breathe new life into cable with this franchise?
Mr. Hindery: I hope people say a year from now we did a nice job. But this is, after all, the New York Yankees, which is a hell of a sweet asset to be selling avails for.
EM: Is there a new sponsor or set of advertisers you will bring in?
Mr. Hindery: Not that we can talk about today. We certainly have some ideas, but we just started.
EM: What kind of local entertainment and sports can you pair with this that is consistent with the Yankees and plays to the same demographic?
Mr. Hindery: Other regional sports and lifestyle programming.
EM: Couldn’t this become like a second regional content service to what already is produced by Cablevision Systems, or what Time Warner already operates?
Mr. Hindery: I don’t think programmers compete with each other. We’re all in the same field.
EM: Will you seek additional funding to pay for programming or personnel?
Mr. Hindery: No. We are fully funded, and we’re just going to try and do a nice job.
EM: Will you seek to link in any way with News Corp.’s regional sports networks or any of the other regional sports networks out there?
Mr. Hindery: No.
EM: What concerns you the most about what’s happening with the cable industry? Some of the new digital service rollouts are slowing down because of the economy. How could that impact YES?
Mr. Hindery: I’m not a distributor anymore, so that’s not for me to say. I am pledged to work on a single service. [It’s] going to [be] measured [by] being good programming, is it priced fairly and whether I listened well to my cable brethren. Some guys have capacity and others don’t. Some have other issues. I will sit down with them as friends and try to help them.