Carl Vogel (search) has resigned as president and chief executive of Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR), one of the nation's largest cable television system operators.

Vogel, who also gave up his seat on the board of directors, will be replaced temporarily as president and CEO by Robert P. May, a Charter director who is chairman of the rehabilitation services giant HealthSouth Corp.

The changes announced Tuesday come in the wake of big losses for Charter in 2004 as it struggles with about $18.5 billion in debt.

Charter shares were down 10 cents at $1.95 on the Nasdaq Stock Market -- below its 52-week closing low of $2 a share.

Charter, which is controlled by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen (search), said Vogel's departure was part of an agreement "reached mutually" by Vogel and the board. He had been CEO and president since October 2001 and his contract was due to expire at the end of this year.

The board has formed a search committee to find a permanent president and CEO.

Charter lost $4 billion, or $13.38 a share, in the first nine months of 2004 in part due to a big charge to reflect lost value of some assets.

It warned last fall it may need extra funding to repay debt maturing in 2005 and 2006. Charter had debt of $18.5 billion as of the end of September.

Three former Charter Communications executives have pleaded guilty to charges arising from a scheme to defraud investors by inflating subscriber numbers.

Charter has about 6.3 million cable subscribers in 37 states.

Allen, chairman of the Charter board, said May's role as a director made him familiar with its business and said his appointment "provides leadership and stability" while management and the board work a growth plan.

May, 55, has been a Charter director and member of the board's new strategic planning committee since last year. He was chief operating officer and a director of Cablevision Systems Corp. from 1996 to 1998, and earlier held several positions with Federal Express Corp.

May said in a statement, "We understand the challenges that lay ahead, and we are committed to successfully addressing them."

Vogel had come to the company from Liberty Media Corp., where he was senior vice president, as well as CEO of Liberty Satellite and Technology. Previously he was an executive of AT&T Broadband and Internet Services. He had also been CEO of Primestar Inc. and Star Choice Communications and president of EchoStar Communications.