VOOM comes back to life

Cablevision Systems has expressed renewed interest in its satellite-delivered digital SD/HDTV service, ands is looking to by back stock to regain control
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Charles F. Dolan, the 78-year-old chairman and controlling shareholder of Cablevision Systems, does not give up easily. Last week the New York Times reported that he is forming a company to buy the remaining assets of VOOM, the troubled high-definition satellite company that the Cablevision board decided to sell to EchoStar Communications last month over his objections.

During the Cablevision board battle over the company, one of Dolan’s sons, Thomas, sided with his father against another son, 49-year-old James, who is Cablevision’s chief executive. Thomas C. Dolan, the executive vice president of Cablevision, and his father will be part of the new company, which will be called VOOM HD.

With the new development some investors and analysts speculated to the Times whether Charles Dolan would sell some or all of his family’s holdings in Cablevision to finance the venture. Dolan won’t say.

Last month, Cablevision Systems’ board voted to sell VOOM, a business that started in 2003, but has lost more than $76 million. Not part of that deal with EchoStar were channels that carry arts, movies, sports and news.

VOOM was the result of Charles Dolan’s dream of creating a new high-definition satellite operation, and seemed to indicate his flagging interest in cable, despite his large fortune in Cablevision stock. He holds shares that represent 75 percent of Cablevision’s vote, the Times reported.

EchoStar agreed to buy the satellite that carried VOOM for $200 million in cash. It said it would examine how the satellite could be used to enhance its own satellite business.

But now VOOM HD will acquire the assets not sold to EchoStar, which includes 21 channels and 26,000 customers. Cablevision said VOOM HD would lease its own satellite. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but it appeared to remove any liabilities Cablevision might have faced in relation to VOOM, the Times said.

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