Charter executive to leave firm

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Stock in Charter Communications dropped nearly 20 percent Monday after the company unexpectedly announced Jerry Kent, a co-founder who grew Charter into one of the nation's largest cable television providers, will leave at week's end.

Kent declined to extend his current three-year employment agreement, which a company spokesman said would have automatically renewed. Kent and Charter have agreed he will leave the company and resign from the board of directors effective Friday.

"On an operating basis, Charter is doing very, very well," said John Martin, an analyst at ABN AMRO Inc. in New York. "So, nobody anticipated, I think, the departure of Mr. Kent."

In a statement released by Charter, Kent called the decision "gut-wrenching." Charter spokesman Andy Morgan said Kent was leaving to "pursue his entrepreneurial instincts and find a new challenge." But one analyst wondered if the departure signaled a rift between Kent and Charter chairman and majority owner Paul Allen.

"The years I spent building Charter into one of the nation's largest and most successful cable companies have been the most challenging and rewarding in my career," Kent said.

Stock price drops

Stock in Charter dropped dramatically following the announcement, down $3.19 to close at $12.81, a new 52-week low, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Since July, the price of the company's shares has declined almost 48 percent from a July 2 52-week high of $24.45. Much of that decline came in the last several days.

The decline prior to Monday was indicative of "what was happening in the market place and within the cable sector," Martin said. "I don't think the weakness in the stock in the last several months is indicative at all of Jerry Kent or his management team, or the type of numbers they have been putting up."

Charter is the nation's fourth-largest cable operator, with about 7 million customers in 40 states.

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