The journey of John Saeman from tiny Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa to a fledgling, dicey business called cable television wasn’t exactly the standard career track for college graduates in 1958.
Yet his decision to join the rather unstable and unproven industry would not only afford him an opportunity to demonstrate his talent, but would have a lasting impact on the entire industry.
“It was a great and fortunate decision I made to join the cable industry when I met Bill Daniels. That was a great blessing,” Saeman says.
After stints in the U.S. Marine Corp and United Airlines, Saeman had a remarkable 25-year run as president and CEO of the cable brokerage firm Daniels & Associates, where he began in 1965.
“To be part of a Bill Daniels enterprise, with its integrity and ethical business practices, was very memorable and a real highlight of my career and life. It’s so important to do the right things,” Saeman says.
He also served as C-SPAN’s second chairman, a post he began in 1980.
Brian Lamb, chairman and CEO of C-SPAN, remembers Saeman’s reign well. He recalls one Saeman visit to C-SPAN’s Washington operations. “I asked John about a potential 3,000 square foot space for C-SPAN near the capital. He asked: 'Can you get any more? Because you’re going to need it.’ That’s the confidence John gave us.”
“It was tough in those days,” says Bob Hughes, chairman of Prime II Investments and an original member of C-SPAN’s board of directors. “There was no funding … and we limped along. But John saw the real long-term benefit of C-SPAN. His expertise and confidence were invaluable to the success of C-SPAN. And he always worked with great integrity and total honesty.”
“He’s been a real mentor, and his word is his bond. He’s the guy who gets the job done,” adds Lamb.
Saeman’s job was re-defined in 1988, when he founded Denver-based investment and management company Medallion Enterprises LLC. It has enabled him to now live an active life fostering charitable efforts.
Saeman actively participates in a number of nonprofit, philanthropic organizations, which includes the founding of the Catholic Foundation, and a leadership role in the fundraising efforts to build Samaritan House, a supplier of food, shelter, jobs and medical services.
He provides non-profit funding through the Saeman Family Foundation and holds board membership on several charitable and community organizations.
While that work is rewarding, his early cable days certainly hold a certain glow for him. “The stars really lined up for me when cable came along, and I have benefited from so many people in the industry, which was always changing in my 25 years at Daniels & Associates. I’m fortunate just to have been in cable,” Saeman says.
He asks a rhetorical “Why me?” when talking about his induction into the Hall of Fame, more than 40 years after he first joined the business. “I’m genuinely surprised and humbled at being selected for the cable Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor.”