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Elder Dolan Fights Son Over Voom Fate at FCC

Cablevision Systems (CVC) Chairman Charles Dolan continues the fight to keep Voom going. Dolan filed notice with the FCC this week that stated his willingness to personally commit $400 million to keep the HD-heavy Voom service alive, after his son, Cablevision CEO James Dolan--and a CVC board that the elder Dolan recently replaced--had voted to cut its losses from the revenue-draining Voom venture. Voom, which boasts some 40 HD channels to date, among other DTV services, reportedly lost more than $600 million last year (HD Notebook, March 16).

In yet another striking example of father-and-son not seeing eye-to-eye on business matters, the elder Dolan also told the FCC in a filing that the Commission should block the sale of Voom's satellite by Cablevision to EchoStar for about $200 million--a sale specifically approved by the CVC board and laid out in an FCC joint filing with EchoStar (and signed by son James) in February. The elder Dolan has since replaced four board members who appeared to be more sympathetic to Voom's fate, although their true sentiments have yet to be tested.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported that the anti-sale recommendation by the elder Dolan appears designed to allow him to purchase the bird himself and try to keep Voom in orbit. Analysts, including Richard Greenfield of Fulcrum Global Partners, said they couldn't recall another instance where a company's chairman officially challenged a previous FCC filing by the same company, especially only weeks apart.

In what is likely a related development, Cablevision also is reportedly in talks with private equity firms to possibly join a venture to purchase Adelphia Communications. Such a move by Cablevision (at least if the 78-year-old Dolan gets his way) could spur some extra cash to help Voom survive. Analyst Greenfield said it appears that based on the new FCC filing this week, the elder Dolan's pledge to put up $400 million of additional capital "shows his willingness to sell his CVC holdings to support the Voom business." As usual, stay tuned.