Carl Vogel has resigned as president and chief executive of Charter Communications in the wake of big losses in 2004 and the big cable-television system operator's struggles with...

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ST. LOUIS — Carl Vogel has resigned as president and chief executive of Charter Communications in the wake of big losses in 2004 and the big cable-television system operator’s struggles with more than $18 billion in debt.

Vogel, who also gave up his seat on the board of directors, will be replaced temporarily as president and CEO by Robert May, a Charter director who is chairman of the rehabilitation-services giant HealthSouth, Charter said yesterday.

“You need to have huge amounts of credibility with your customers that you know what you’re doing and that you’re doing it well,” May said in a telephone interview. “That’s key to any business, but especially when you’re delivering communications.”

Shares of the suburban St. Louis-based cable company dropped 8 cents to $1.97 yesterday — below its 52-week closing low of $2 a share.

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Charter, which is controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, said Vogel’s departure was part of an agreement “reached mutually” by Vogel and the board. Vogel had been CEO and president since October 2001 and his contract was due to expire at the end of this year.

Robert May


A search committee will seek a permanent president and CEO. May would not say whether he will pursue that job.

Charter lost $4 billion, or $13.38 a share, in the first nine months of 2004 in part due to a big charge to reflect lost value of some assets.

It warned last fall it may need extra funding to repay debt maturing in 2005 and 2006. Charter had debt of $18.5 billion as of the end of September.

Three former Charter Communications executives have pleaded guilty to charges arising from a scheme to defraud investors by inflating subscriber numbers.

Charter grew rapidly in the early 2000s, but accumulated large debt along the way. May declined to speculate on future expansion, but said his focus will be on growth within existing markets. Charter has about 6.3 million cable subscribers in 37 states.

In addition to cable TV, Charter offers high-speed Internet, video on demand and other products.

Allen, chairman of the Charter board, said May’s role as a director made him familiar with its business and his appointment “provides leadership and stability” while management and the board pursue a growth plan.

May, 55, has been a Charter director and member of the board’s new strategic planning committee since last year. He was chief operating officer and a director of Cablevision Systems from 1996 to 1998, and earlier held several positions with Federal Express.