Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, who purchased a 1,200-subscriber Tupelo, Miss., cable company in 1963 and grew it into the conglomerate run today by his son, Brian, has died at the age of 95.
The Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) founder, who had served as chairman emeritus of the company in recent years after a 47-year run as CEO, died of natural causes in Philadelphia, according to the cable giant.
"Ralph was a born entrepreneur, a visionary businessman, a philanthropist and a wonderful human being," the company said in a statement. "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."
In 1990, at age 70, Roberts handed off control of Comcast to his son, Brian, then 30, a rare display of successful, intergenerational power-transferring--the difficulty of which he acknowledged later in a 1997 New York Times interview.
''There are the families that destroy each other as soon as the father or mother dies,'' the elder Roberts said. ''They come in and tear each other apart… They are all billionaires, and they're fighting like crazy over another billion.''
At the time, Comcast was $4 billion-a-year company. Son Brian now oversees a conglomerate that commands $68.8 billion in annual revenue and 139,000 employees, and is the dominant force for bringing broadband into American homes.
"Ralph Roberts was a pioneer, a visionary and a role model. He exemplified the value of working hard and treating others with kindness and respect. His influence has extended far beyond Comcast and Cable. His life's work, and the legacy he leaves, helped shape the way consumers use content today and how they communicate with one another," said Rob Marcus, Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, Comcast's erstwhile merger partner, in a statement. "On behalf of everyone at Time Warner Cable, I send our sympathy and love to Ralph's family and to everyone at Comcast."
"Ralph Roberts is the absolutely most clear-cut example of the American dream," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell in a statement. "From selling belts door-to-door to creating the largest entertainment and technology corporation in the United States of America--it's an incredible success story."
- read this Comcast press release
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