Chairman, Non-Execs Go in Telewest's Night of The Long Knives

01 December 2003

Britain's second-largest cable company, US-owned Telewest, underwent a night of the long knives last week in which seventy-one year-old chairman Anthony 'Cob' Stenham -- a pillar of London's corporate establishment -- departed the board along with both of the company's other non-executive directors [WAMN: 03-Jun-03].

The triple exit is a virtual replay of a rumour that went the rounds during Britain's long hot summer when exactly such an event was reported in MediaGuardian. “Just speculation,” a Telewest spokeswoman told our reporter [WAMN: 19-Aug-03] -- although the company never officially refuted what was obviously a premature leak. “Curiouser and curiouser!” as WAMN commented at the time.

Stenham officially remains an advisor to the board with the hollow title 'chairman emeritus'. His walk down the plank was accompanied by both other non-executive directors, Tony Rice and outgoing deputy chair of the Competition Commission, Denise Kingsmill.

Leaping into Stenham's still-warm seat is Barry Elson (62), a former evp of operations at US cable operator Cox Communications. While one of Wall Street's finest, W R Huff Asset Management, occupies two board seats -- significantly mirroring its position at cable rival NTL, with which a merger now seems inevitable.

Telewest managing director Charles Burdick survives with the new title of chief executive. But he too may be contemplating alternative career plans. He continues with the company “at the pleasure” of the new board, according to a filing with America's SEC, with a payoff entitlement of £500,000 ($860,750; €717,530) should he too make the long walk along a short plank.

Telewest’s bondholders now rule the company’s new nine-member board, pending completion of the group’s restructuring.

• Separately, it was revealed Friday that Telewest will shell-out a cool £63 million-plus in "advisors fees" as part of its £3.5 billion debt restructuring.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK) and Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff