Cablevision to spin off Madison Square Garden

The board of Cablevision Systems Corp. has approved a plan to spin off its Madison Square Garden (MSG) business as a separate company.

The New York-based company said the transaction would be structured as a tax-free pro rata spin-off to Cablevision's existing shareholders and is expected to be completed by year-end 2009, subject to necessary approvals.

Once the spin-off is complete, Cablevision shareholders would own shares in both Cablevision and the new MSG.

The Dolan family, who controls Cablevision through a special class of shares, will retain control of the new company. James Dolan, its chief executive, also will take on the role of executive chairman of the spun-off MSG group.

Hank Ratner, Cablevision's vice chairman, will be president and CEO of the new company.

''This spin-off will create two distinct companies, each with enhanced strategic flexibility, its own defined business focus and clear investment characteristics. The new MSG will be an attractive combination of sports, entertainment and programming properties, while Cablevision will continue to house a portfolio that includes industry leading telecommunications services and popular programming networks,'' Dolan said.