The world lost yet another visionary this week. Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts passed away, leaving behind a larger than life legacy.
Ralph Roberts, who foresaw the bright future of cable TV industry, transformed a tiny Mississippi cable company into a massive giant that is universally recognized as Comcast. Mr. Roberts, who had been in declining health lately, died of natural causes Thursday night in Philadelphia, said the company via a statement.
“Ralph was a born entrepreneur, a visionary businessman, a philanthropist and a wonderful human being. Ralph built Comcast into one of America’s greatest companies and his vision and spirit have been at the heart of Comcast and our culture for 50 years. He will be truly missed.”
Though Mr. Roberts built an empire and revolutionized the cable TV industry, he started his entrepreneurial career at an advertising agency. Ralph eventually acquired Pioneer Industries and helped it grow into one of the country’s largest makers of men’s clothing accessories. His ample foresight was quite visible even in this department as he quickly realized the days of suspenders and cufflinks were quite limited. He swiftly offloaded the enterprise and began to earnestly invest in the cable industry, which was still a novel concept at the time.
Though the cable television was nothing more than a scrawny group of hobbyists with community antennas and a mess of haphazardly strung wires, Ralph knew the potential it held. Mr. Roberts had the opportunity to take over and run a cable TV system when a cable system owner was looking to wash his hands of a struggling Southern distributor.
From humble beginnings of broadcasting grainy and oft-sporadic signals to mere 1,200 local residents, Comcast has grown by leaps and bounds in the hands of Ralph Roberts. With $68.8 billion in revenue and 139,000 employees, Comcast is undeniably the nation’s biggest multimedia-serving company. Besides video, Comcast offers high-speed internet as well as phone lines to homes and businesses.
Despite the phenomenal success, his employees fondly remember their bow-tied chief, who never had the whiff of snobbery that typically comes with wealth and affluence. Though riches piled, Ralph Roberts remained a salesman and merchant at heart who knew one thing for sure: “People love television.”
[Image Credit | Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP]