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Craig Moffett, ex-Bernstein Analyst, Sets Up Own Firm

Craig Moffett, the former top-ranked telecommunications analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., is returning to the industry with his own independent equity research firm, Moffett Research LLC.

Moffett, 50, left Bernstein, a division of New York-based AllianceBernstein LP, in January after more than 10 years at the firm. Former colleagues Patrick O’Connell, Ethan Steinberg and John Towers, who left Bernstein at the same time, will join Moffett as partners, New York-based Moffett Research said in a statement today.

Moffett has been ranked No. 1 among U.S. cable and satellite analysts for seven consecutive years by Institutional Investor magazine. Prior to working for Bernstein, he served as president of Sothebys.com, the auction house’s e-commerce site, and spent 11 years at the Boston Consulting Group, where he led the firm’s global telecommunications practice.

“An awful lot has happened in telecom in the short time I’ve been gone,” Moffett said in an e-mail. “It has only been three months, but it feels like a lifetime. I can’t wait to get back into the mix.”

Moffett has long championed cable companies such as Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) for owning the networks that carry digital information. Moffett has said “distribution is king,” rather than content, because network owners will always find a way to get paid.

Star Analysts

Moffett follows other star analysts in setting up their own research firms, including Meredith Whitney, the analyst who correctly predicted Citigroup Inc. would cut its dividend because of mortgage-related losses and went on to start Meredith Whitney Advisory Group. Last month, International Strategy & Investment Group LLC said Nancy Lazar, who co-founded the brokerage more than 20 years ago, was leaving to start her own research firm.

Like peers, the task for Moffett will be to make a profit without the resources that research departments tied to banks have, according to Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries.

“Craig is well regarded on the street, but the challenge for these independent research providers is to get paid,” Sweeney said in an interview. “When you don’t have a trading operation, it’s a complex process.”

Moffett Research will start cable and satellite research in June, before the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s annual show starting on June 10. The firm will add other coverage areas, including telecommunications, later that month.

David Cielusniak, an attorney, formerly at New York-based Conquest Capital Group LLC, also joins as a partner and will serve as general counsel, chief compliance officer and chief operating officer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Sherman in New York at asherman6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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