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Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cablevision Names General Counsel

Cablevision Systems Corp. has appointed Jonathan D. Schwartz, a former Justice Department official, as the company’s executive VP and general counsel, overseeing all of Cablevision’s legal affairs, reporting directly to Cablevision President and CEO James L. Dolan.

Mr. Schwartz, 41, most recently served as senior VP and deputy general counsel for AOL Time Warner, where he was hired in August 2002 to help with an SEC investigation and Justice Department probe related to the way advertising deals and other revenue were booked by AOL.

At Cablevision, he is expected to help deal with an SEC probe launched in July after the company announced that it had discovered some expenses were improperly accrued by its programming unit. That discovery led to the firing of 14 employees of the Rainbow programming unit.

Before AOL Time Warner, Mr. Schwartz was at Napster during a period the song swapping online firm was facing a number of legal challenges. At Cablevision, he replaces Robert Lemle, who retired last year after 22 years with the company.

Mr. Schwartz also held a series of high-level positions in government, culminating with his role as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice in Washington. Prior to his role in Washington, he also served as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan. In a statement, Mr. Dolan said that Mr. Schwartz would be “an excellent addition to Cablevision’s senior management team and we look forward to a long association with him.”

In a statement, Mr. Schwartz said: “Cablevision is a first-rate, diversified media and entertainment company with terrific assets and enormous opportunities. I look forward to working with the company’s management team to pursue the many prospects that lie ahead for Cablevision.” A Long Island, New York native, Mr. Schwartz served as a law clerk for both Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served in the litigation department of the New York office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue.

Standard & Poor Downgrades Charter: Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Monday downgraded Paul Allen’s Charter Communications to CC from CCC, following through on a threat made last month when the rating agency expressed concern that Charter’s proposed debt offering wouldn’t trim as much debt as the company initially hoped. The new rating, which plunges the St. Louis-based cable operator deeper into so-called junk status, makes borrowing more expensive.

S&P, which initially placed Charter’s debt rating under review on July 14, said that it will continue to review the company’s credit status for further downgrades.

The decision to downgrade the company stemmed from the fact that its planned $1.7 billion debt offering would only trim the company’s overall debt by 25 percent, and not the 80 percent that the company originally anticipated. That, in turn, doesn’t reduce Charter’s risk of defaulting on its loans, the rating agency said.

Sen. Hollings Will Not Seek Re-Election: In a blow to opponents of deregulation, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., today announced that he won’t seek re-election next year. As one of the ranking members of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Hollings has played a major role for years in legislation affecting the media industry -usually as a stalwart champion of regulation-both as chairman and ranking minority member. On the media front, he has been a particularly impassioned proponent of a Federal Communications Commission regulation barring broadcasters from acquiring daily newspapers in their markets, a regulation he propped up for years with riders on appropriations bills. In recent weeks, he has also been helping lead the charge on Capitol Hill to overturn the FCC’s June 2 vote to relax agency media ownership rules.

In a statement, NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts said Sen. Hollings, who was originally elected to the Senate in 1966, had been “a friend to free local broadcasting for 35 years.” Despite the impending departure, Andrew Schwartzman, president of the activist Media Access Project, said Sen. Hollings is far from gone. “He’s very much alive and he’s going to bite a lot of butts before he’s done,” Mr. Schwartzman said.