If John Malone has been the Darth Vader of Tele-Communications Inc.--as Vice President Al Gore once dubbed the TCI chief--Leo Hindery Jr. has been the cable giant's Jedi Knight, skillfully maneuvering around both Wall Street and Washington. The force has been with him: In less than 18 months as president of TCI, he has been instrumental in turning around the company's lagging stock.
Hindery, 50, is now poised to become one of the most influential figures in the communications business, having been named president of AT&T;'s proposed new consumer services division. But for all his success at TCI, is Hindery the right man to lead AT&T; into its bold new venture?
"He's generally well-liked in the industry, and he's been a master of de-leveraging TCI," said Porter Bibb, a media investment banker at New York-based Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. "But he's a conservator, not a builder."
Indeed, much of Wall Street's renewed affection for TCI has been fueled by Hindery's ability to cut debt. He sold several cable systems to reduce TCI's high debt load. But, stresses Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen, Hindery at the same time has extended TCI's overall "footprint" and subscriber base while displaying strong leadership skills.
Hindery "really realigned the cable industry, which no one else could have done," Cohen said. "By every measure, Leo has been a success . . . and he's probably the hardest-working person in the entire world."
Paul Kagan, head of Carmel-based research firm Paul Kagan Associates, said: "I think what he's proven at TCI is that he can take over a very large company . . . and turn it around to fit a more modern model. What AT&T; needs are dynamic executives who have proven they can run with a project. The most dynamic network operators have [largely] been coming from the cable industry, and Hindery and [his team] are outstanding."
A 1971 graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Hindery worked for top mining firm Utah International for 10 years, then became managing director of the investment banking firm Becker Paribas.
During a stint at San Francisco's Chronicle Publishing Co., he became interested in the cable TV business. He formed San Francisco-based InterMedia Partners, making millions of dollars investing in cable stocks.