Charter Communications replaces Tom Rutledge as CEO

What a difference a couple of years make. Two years ago in the height of the pandemic, Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge was riding high at a company that was garnering new broadband subscribers every month as people rushed to work and learn from home. Today, Rutledge is out.

Charter announced that it’s named Chris Winfrey as president and chief executive officer, effective December 1. Winfrey has most recently served as Charter’s chief operating officer after more than a decade as Charter’s chief financial officer. As CEO, Winfrey will report to Charter’s board of directors.

Rutledge has been a mainstay in the cable community for 50 years, beginning as a technician in 1972 while in college. He will serve as executive chairman of the company and its board of directors through the end of his contract in November of 2023. He will maintain oversight of Charter’s government affairs during that time and provide his guidance to ensure a smooth CEO transition.

The announcement today, coinciding with the big annual trade show Cable-Tec Expo, comes as a bit of a shock. The announcement also comes one day after a Texas judge reduced Charter’s punitive damages in a murder trial from $7.3 billion to $1.15 billion. But $1.15 billion is still a very hefty sum.

Charter has also struggled this year with broadband subscriber losses and a downward trajectory of its stock.

Lead Independent Director of Charter’s Board of Directors Eric Zinterhofer stated today, “When Tom was chosen to lead Charter in 2012, his reputation as a skilled operator was second to none, but we never anticipated the new heights to which he would take this company. He grew the company both organically and through transformative acquisitions, which included Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Optimum West (Bresnan).”

Of the succession to Winfrey, Rutledge said, "Having worked closely with Chris for more than 10 years, he is the right choice to be our next CEO and will serve Charter’s customers, employees and shareholders with integrity and skill, leading the company to new and extraordinary heights.”