John Malone Rides High as Cable Cowboy Remakes Pay TV, Again

New York (TheStreet) -- John Malone just can't stay away from cable TV.

The man who all but invented the industry nearly 50 years ago is poised to return to the top ranks of U.S. operators at a time when pay-TV is being fast reshaped by consumer demand for Internet-based content.

Malone, 74, along with Charter Communications (CHTR) CEO Tom Rutlege, is being credited with orchestrating the St. Louis-based cable-TV operator's $78.7 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC). Charter were gaining 2.4% to $179.44 on Tuesday extending its 12-month advance to  27%. Time Warner Cable was also climbing, adding 6.2% to $181.70.

A deal to buy Time Warner Cable, the country's second-largest cable-TV operator, is quite a coup, even by Malone's standards.

"There is no one better able to come back in right now, take the reins over, than this guy," Leo Hindery, who headed Malone's Tele-Communications Corp before it was sold to AT&T in 1999, said in a phone interview from New York. "You want Edison around when you come up with a new light bulb, and he's no different for the cable-TV business."

Two years ago, Malone's Liberty Media took a 27% stake in Charter, a pay-TV operator that held just 4.2 million subscribers. Since then, Charter has increased its size to 5.9 million subscribers. The Charter investment, Hindery said, fulfilled Malone's desire to have a vehicle to re-enter a cable-TV industry.

Back in the 1970s, the Yale and Johns Hopkins-educated Malone took a job at McKinsey & Company, a position that led to his hiring as president of Jerrold Electronics, which was selling equipment to retransmit broadcasters over-the-air signals to local antennas.

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