Altice NV and its 52-year-old chairman, Patrick Drahi, are scooping up cable service providers around the world.
His deal for Newsday's parent, Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp., counts on operational cost reductions plus a growing appetite for broadband service outweighing accelerating losses in high-value video subscribers.
"Their vision is interesting in that they couple cost-cutting with infrastructure upgrades," said John Carroll, a mass communication professor at Boston University and media analyst for NPR's "Here & Now." "Clearly, this deal would make them a player in the U.S. Picking up 3.1 million [Cablevision] subscribers is a big first step."
Since the mid-1990s, Drahi, a French-Israeli businessman whose net worth Forbes estimates at $15 billion, has been cobbling together deals around the world.
In June Altice, based in the Netherlands, acquired a Portuguese cable company, Oi SA, for about $8.3 billion; in May Altice agreed to buy 70 percent of St. Louis-based Suddenlink Communications, the No. 7 U.S. cable company, for $9.1 billion; and also in May Drahi agreed to pay 3.7 billion euros to buy Vivendi SA's 20 percent stake in Numericable-SFR, a cable and wireless provider he controls.
The Casablanca, Morocco-born son of two mathematics teachers, Drahi began building and selling cable companies in France in the 1990s. In 1999 he sold one to a company controlled by John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media and a prolific cable industry dealmaker. Drahi went to work for Malone, an acknowledged role model, before striking out on his own with Altice.
The two tangled in May when Malone, through Charter Communications Inc., struck a $55 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc., which also had been looked at by Altice. With Cablevision, Drahi has gained a foothold in the biggest market in the country, and more deals could follow.
"You're talking about the greater New York market, the media capital of the world," Carroll said. "They're stepping onto a big stage."