Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

June 19, 2003 Thursday ALL EDITIONS

Kate McEnroe, fired yesterday as president of AMC Networks, gained a reputation as a businesswoman who would not give up.

Starting with Rainbow Media, parent of AMC, in 1981, she lived out of a suitcase as she traveled about the country pitching the classic movie network to mostly indifferent executives at cable television companies.

McEnroe's hard work paid off. In 1984, she became executive vice president of AMC. In 1996, she was named president of AMC Networks, which included the American Movie Classics and Romance Classics channels. Romance Classics has since become WE: Women's Entertainment.

Considered gutsy and an anomaly in a mostly male world, McEnroe, who is in her mid-40s, is said to have opened doors for other women in cable television. She was honored as "Woman of the Year" by Women in Cable & Telecommunications for a campaign she waged to ensure the industry better served its female customers.

And, McEnroe was recognized by Cablevision Magazine (a now-defunct sister publication to CED magazine) as one of the industry's most powerful women.

But McEnroe has stirred controversy as well. In September, AMC began to sell advertising, a move that inflamed some of the channel's long-time fans. Since the fall, it has billed about $60 million in advertising sales, a small figure relative to networks of its size. A former Cablevision executive said, however, that the figure is expected to grow rapidly this year, if the national advertising market remains strong.

McEnroe's reputation was "stellar" at Rainbow, the former executive said. But the executive also described her management style as "hard-line."

"It was her way or the highway," the executive said. "She ruled with an iron fist."

McEnroe, an Iowa native, once worked as a television weathercaster. She lives on Nassau's North Shore with her two children.

(Staff writer Verne Gay contributed to this story.)