The Maverick Number Cruncher10/14/2005 8:00 PM Eastern
Monroe “Monty” Rifkin has always considered himself an entrepreneur, so when the opportunity arose to join the cable industry in 1959, he did not hesitate. The decision began a long career that would leave an indelible mark on the industry, and on many of the people who were influenced by his financial and management savvy.
Among his top achievements was the founding of American Television and Communications Corp., long considered one of the best managed cable companies ever. At ATC, Rifkin called upon the financial talents he gained from years of banking and investment experience.
“Monty created one of the truly great companies in cable. It was a great enterprise which was run by the best and brightest recruits from the top schools in the country,” says Trygve Myhren, president of consultancy Myhren Media Inc. and one of Rifkin’s first executives at ATC, which later became the nucleus for Time Warner Cable. “He knew what he was doing when he recruited people.”
Rifkin’s initial segue into cable came in 1959, when he was executive vice president of TelePrompTer, which was exploring the closed-circuit TV business at that time.
While there, Rifkin was introduced to Bill Daniels.
“He told me about this exciting new business called CATV and that he was setting up a brokerage operation. I listened to the economics, and my ears perked up. Being a financial guy, I knew about the numbers, and they piqued my interest,” Rifkin recalls.
The numbers were so compelling that he convinced TelePrompTer chairman Irving Kahn to sell everything and invest in cable. After Rifkin created a cable division at TelePrompTer, Daniels finally persuaded him to move to Denver, where he joined Daniels & Associates in 1963.
“Everything was against us — broadcasters, phone companies, regulators,” says Rifkin about the cable industry at that time. “We had a saying: 'Nobody likes us but the people.’ We were delivering a great product at a great price.”
Rifkin played a prominent role in the fight on a national level as chairman of the National Cable Television Association in 1983-1984, and as a board member from 1969-1984.
June Travis, former president of Rifkin & Associates Inc., remembers Rifkin’s accomplishments well. “He really got the attention of Wall Street when he took ATC public, which was the first cable-only company. And he hired a huge amount of talent in the industry — people who went on to run major companies. He had the vision of the early entrepreneurs.”
As chairman of Rifkin & Associates, his investment and management company, he continues his entrepreneurial activities. As successful as he may be now, he considers the decision to head West and join Denver-based Daniels to be the defining moment in his career.
“Coming out of New York business to a place where a handshake is good enough was very refreshing. It was a great lesson for me.”