Cable-industry veterans are mourning the loss of Bill
Daniels, the man most frequently referred to as the "father of cable
"He loved being called that. I think it was the
proudest of many accomplishments He was a truly remarkable man -- quick to
volunteer, quick to donate, quick to urge all of us to remember our
responsibilities," said Brian Deevy, CEO of Daniels & Associates, the cable
brokerage that bears Daniels' name.
His peers reminisced fondly about the veteran last week
after Daniels, 79, died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., of
Daniels was so active in business and philanthropic causes
that tales of him became almost mythic. "But we should clarify: He couldn't
fly," cracked an otherwise somber Deevy.
Daniels' was a life lived large. Among his
accomplishments: Golden Gloves boxer, Navy fighter pilot, cable-system founder, system
broker, gubernatorial candidate, football-league founder, regional-sports-network
"I've known him 35 years. He was always
generous," said former partner John Saeman, principal of Medallion Enterprises Inc.
He remembered a time when the two men were struggling as
operators in Casper, Wyo. "We were having trouble making payroll. A traveling
salesman came in, I think he was from Salt Lake [City], and gave us some tough-luck story.
Bill gave him a couple of hundred dollars. I said, 'What are you doing?' He just
looked at me and said, 'He needed it worse than we did,'" Saeman said.
"He was one of a kind -- the people he touched most
were the kind of people who could do nothing for him," he added, his voice cracking.
"He was a wonderful mentor and a wonderful friend."
Daniels was born July 1, 1920, in Greeley, Colo. He
attended several schools before graduating from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1941.
While at the institute, he was the undefeated Golden Gloves champion of the state.
He graduated as a cadet captain and served his country in
both World War II and the Korean War, credited with destroying 11 enemy aircraft. He
retired from the Navy with the rank of commander.
His introduction to cable is perhaps the most oft-told tale
about the man. He saw his first television broadcast in 1952 during a visit to a Denver
restaurant called Murphy's. As he watched a boxing match, he wondered why no one had
figured out a way to bring this spanking new technology to Casper, where Daniels was
running an oil-insurance business.
Soon thereafter, he read an article in a Denver paper
describing a new business that was distributing TV signals by means of cable. He got
together investors, mostly oilmen, and brought on board two brothers, engineers Gene and
Richard Schneider, and a venture was born.
"To Bill's eternal credit, he had the idea. We
were just fortunate to hear about it," said Gene Schneider, now chairman at
international MSO UnitedGlobalCom.
Schneider worked at Daniels' side, then sat across the
transaction table from him when Daniels cashed out of their first venture in 1960. Like
many executives who did deals with Daniels, each marveled at his sense of business ethics.
"You shook his hand and you knew, that's the way
[the deal] was going to be," Schneider said.
Business ethics and personal accountability were important
issues for the late executive. When he polled business schools in the 1980s and discovered
that none had courses focusing on personal communication and ethics, he donated $11
million to the University of Denver to begin such a program. As the result of the 1988
gift, the school was named the Daniels College of Business. To date, his donations to the
school top $22 million.
Denver will also benefit from the donation of his massive
home, dubbed "Cableland," to the city and county. It is to be used as a mayoral
He also created the Daniels Fund, set up to aid the
homeless, which will benefit from his estate.
Another of his creative endeavors is the Young Americans
Bank, a financial institution founded for use by children to teach them the value of a
dollar. He also donated heavily to the New Mexico Military Institute.
He was generous within the cable industry, too, associates
noted. When the industry formed the Walter Kaitz Foundation to attract and train more
minorities in cable, "his was the first check on the table," one executive
Most recently, he promoted his own version of
campaign-finance reform by giving free ad time to qualified national candidates in the
races in Desert Hot Springs and Carlsbad, Calif., the locations of his two remaining cable
systems. Associates said he hoped other operators would copy his effort to clean up
Daniels dabbled in politics himself briefly in 1974. He ran
for governor in Colorado, but he was soundly trounced.
But his lifelong interest in sports was more profitable. He
once sponsored a race car in the Indianapolis 500 and backed a fighter, Ron Lyle, who
eventually made it to a championship bout against Muhammad Ali. He was also a founding
member of the now-defunct United States Football League.
In 1985, Daniels launched Prime Ticket Network in Los
Angeles, the first major regional sports network. He partnered with Los Angeles Lakers
owner Jerry Buss on that deal, and as a result, he retained a 5 percent ownership in the
National Basketball Association team at the time of his death.
In 1989, with the help of another strategic partnership
with John Malone and Tele-Communications Inc., the venture expanded into several networks
and was dubbed Prime Networks.
"He was the most impactful individual in my life,
after my parents," said Tony Acone, the first president of Prime Ticket. "We can
say uniquely we were members of the Daniels family. I don't know how large that
number is, but we are uniquely blessed."
Acone also noted that when Prime Networks was sold to Fox
Sports, Daniels shared his profits with all employees, "from the managers to the
"I think his only failure was his unwillingness to
authorize a biography. It would have been terrific reading, especially for entrepreneurs.
But he cherished his privacy," Acone said.
Daniels, who served as the second chairman of the National
Cable Television Association, was lauded by NCTA CEO Robert Sachs.
"In addition to being a giant in our industry, Bill
Daniels was a champion of ethics and values in business. His many contributions to the
Denver community and the University of Denver provide a lasting legacy. His life
exemplified the adage that it is possible to do good for others while doing well in
business," Sachs said in a prepared statement.
In accordance with his wishes, Daniels was cremated.
Officials at Daniels & Associates said a memorial
service for Bill Daniels will be held Wednesday (March 15) from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at
The Magness Arena at The Ritchie Center, University of Denver, 2201 East Asbury Avenue. A
reception will follow at the same location, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The Daniels family suggests that people wishing to honor
Bill Daniels make a charitable contribution to help perpetuate the educational programs of
the Young Americans Bank, one of his favorite projects. Checks should be sent to,
"Daniels Memorial Fund," c/o Young Americans Bank, 311 Steele Street, Denver,
Other memorials will be held in San Diego and New Mexico,
Divorced four times, Daniels is survived by two
stepchildren and a brother, Jack.