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Comcast CEO Has Vision Beyond Cable and Broadband
Comcast CEO Has Vision Beyond Cable and Broadband

By Mike Snider
February 19, 2014 9:30AM

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After working his way up through Comcast, CEO Brian Roberts is looking to make the company a multimedia superpower, hoping to add Time Warner Cable, the second-largest pay TV operator in the U.S. to its portfolio. In 1981, the company that would become Comcast had $21 million in revenue. In 2013, Comcast had $64.7 billion.

The cable TV fantasy continues to get even more real for Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. His career began with a summer job at age 15 working for his father's small cable system in Tupelo, Miss. That company grew, and Roberts became its president in 1990 and CEO in 2002. Today, Comcast is a multimedia and entertainment powerhouse that owns NBC Universal and networks such as E!, QVC, the Golf Channel and Comcast SportsNet as well as the Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia 76ers.

Now Roberts hopes to add Time Warner Cable, the second-largest pay TV operator in the U.S. to its portfolio.

"I was born in 1959. Comcast started in 1963, so all my life it, basically, was there," Roberts told USA TODAY in 2006. "The fantasy could have ended and the reality could have begun when I had my first real job, but I loved it and it's been a fantasy ever since."

In 1981, the company that would become Comcast had $21 million in revenue. In 2013, Comcast had $64.7 billion in revenue, up 3.3% from the previous year.

A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Roberts is a renowned squash player. He won a gold medal in 2005 with the U.S. team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. Roberts lives in Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered, with his wife, Aileen; they have three children. He has served two consecutive terms as chairman of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

That intensity he takes onto the squash court carries over to the business world. "Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is not physically imposing, but he will crush you if you are in (the) way" of his business goals, said Buzzfeed writer Peter Lauria in promoting a profile of Roberts on Twitter.

As Comcast grew over the years, it gobbled up other cable systems. Comcast's 2001 acquisition of AT&T Broadband for $52 billion is even bigger than the Time Warner Cable acquisition, Lauria notes.

Not every move by Roberts and Comcast works out. Ten years ago, Comcast attempted a hostile takeover of Disney. When Disney wanted more, Roberts said: "We looked at our own company, and we were so confident and bullish on the prospects of our business that we weren't willing to pay up. It was a good idea, but they wanted a huge premium."

A dinner meeting with Microsoft's Bill Gates and other cable execs in the late 1990s helped Roberts and Comcast to step up their game. When Gates asked how he could help the industry, Roberts chimed in that he could invest in their companies. Roberts told his father that "I may have made a jerk of myself."

But a month later Gates and Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast, which helped the company innovate for the broadband future. That innovative streak continues. Recently Roberts noted the company planned to set up the new San Francisco 49ers stadium with wireless broadband and other interactive features.

After raising his voice during that dinner with Gates, Roberts continues to grab attention. As Roberts has said in the past: "I'm certainly not shy doing my job."

© 2014 USA TODAY under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.

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