Deal-Maker Who Built A National Media Company: Brian L. Roberts, W’ 81

Working for and with his father’s company was the only job Brian Roberts ever really wanted. The fourth of five children for Ralph Roberts, W’41, HON’ 05, he read The Wall Street Journal in high school and was fascinated by the stock market.

At Wharton, few of his classmates would have guessed that Roberts would become the major player who turned Comcast into a nationwide media company through aggressive acquisitions, innovative content creation, and technology investments. “The cable industry was still relatively small then, so it wasn’t like I was being groomed for this big corporate job,” says the CEO and chairman of Comcast Corp. “I was just a kid who wanted to work for his dad’s business.”

Today he has built his “dad’s business” into the largest cable-television operator in the nation, with 24.2 million cable customers, 11.5 million high-speed Internet customers, and 2.5 million voice customers. Its content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, The Golf Channel, VERSUS, G4, AZN Television, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One, and four regional Comcast SportsNets, as well as majority ownership in Comcast Spectacor, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team, and two large Philadelphia arenas.

Roberts, who became Comcast’s president in 1990, CEO in 2002 and chairman in 2004, has led that growth via a dizzying array of ever-greater deals, from programming content channels to the historic 2002 acquisition of AT&T Broadband, which nearly tripled its subscriber count. Roberts’ belief that the future of the cable industry was in the broadband platform was a key to the company’s rapid growth. In recent years, he has aggressively pursued high-profit services such as digital video, high-speed data, and voice. For his efforts, he has been honored by Institutional Investor as one of the nation’s top CEOs for four years in a row.

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