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Tom Rutledge, who turned Charter into a cable powerhouse, to step down as CEO

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Chairman and CEO of Charter Communications Tom Rutledge speaks at The New York Times DealBook Conference at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 10, 2016 in New York City.
Bryan Bedder | The New York Times | Getty Images

Charter Communications Chief Executive Tom Rutledge will step down on Dec. 1 after a decade at the helm and half a century in the cable industry.

Rutledge, 68, will move to executive chairman until his contract runs out in November 2023. Charter Chief Operating Officer Chris Winfrey, who joined the company in 2010, will take over as CEO.

Rutledge turned Charter from a relatively small regional cable company into the No. 2 provider in the U.S. by orchestrating an audacious takeover of Time Warner Cable, announced in 2015, for nearly $79 billion including debt. At the time, Charter served about 6 million subscribers with a market capitalization of about $20 billion.

The Time Warner Cable deal, combined with a $10 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks announced at the same time, nearly quadrupled Charter’s size, both in valuation and customers served. Rutledge unified the company’s TV and broadband internet assets under the Spectrum brand. During the course of Rutledge’s tenure, Charter’s revenue has grown 600% and its customer base has increased 500%.

Until this year, investors have cheered Rutledge’s commitment to being a pureplay cable company. Charter’s consistent additions of high-speed broadband subscribers, which come with extremely high profit margins, led the company’s stock to rise more than triple from May 2016, when the Time Warner Cable deal closed, to December 2021.

This year, broadband additions have finally plateaued after years of growth. That’s caused cable valuations to plummet. Charter is down about 44% in 2022.

Rutledge began his career in cable in 1972 as a technician at Eastern Telecom. He gained a reputation as being a top-notch cable operator while at Cablevision, working for then-CEO James Dolan. Charter poached him from Cablevision in 2012, giving him the CEO role.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to lead Charter and this incredible team over the past 10 years,” Rutledge said in a statement. “During my 50 years in this industry, I have witnessed first-hand its ability to continually evolve and change the world, and our opportunity today is greater than ever with ubiquitous connectivity being central to everything we do.”

Winfrey started at Charter in 2010 as its chief financial officer, moving to COO last year.

“Chris’ leadership and expertise in both operations and finance have been pivotal to Charter’s growth and success,” said Rutledge. “Having worked closely with Chris for more than 10 years, he is the right choice to be our next CEO.”

WATCH: Charter CEO Tom Rutledge to step down, will remain exec. chairman through 2023.

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