By Victor Luckerson
May 28, 2015

The legendary mogul and chairman of Liberty Broadband is helping orchestrate a $56 billion merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. (Liberty owns the largest stake in Charter.) If regulators approve the deal, the new company will serve 24 million customers, making it a close second in size to Comcast.

• CLAIMS TO FAME

The former Bell Labs researcher became the CEO of a struggling cable operator called TCI in 1973 at 32. By the ’80s, TCI had become the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S., wiring millions of Americans’ homes for cable for the first time. Malone sold the company to AT&T for $55 billion in 1999 and then, as chairman of Liberty Media, made investments in businesses ranging from Sirius XM to the Atlanta Braves.

• CURRENT CHALLENGES

The cable industry Malone helped build is losing subscribers to tech firms like Netflix and Amazon, which let customers stream TV shows over the web. Costs are also on the rise as networks charge cable operators higher fees to carry their content.

• BIGGEST CHAMPIONS

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge and Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus. Rutledge, who has been a vocal proponent of consolidation as a way to protect the cable industry’s future, would remain the head of the newly expanded Charter. Marcus, who has been trying to sell Time Warner Cable since he became CEO last year, could receive more than $85 million in additional pay if he steps down.

• BIGGEST OBSTACLE

The Federal Communications Commission, which forced Comcast to scuttle its own plans for a merger with Time Warner Cable in April.

• CAN HE DO IT?

Yes. Malone’s merger has a better shot than Comcast’s because a combined Charter and Time Warner Cable still wouldn’t control a majority of the broadband market.

–VICTOR LUCKERSON

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the June 08, 2015 issue of TIME.

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