Ralph Roberts wasn’t exactly looking to get into cable television after he sold his suspender-and-belt business in the early 1960s. But a chance meeting on the street with Dan Aaron and Pete Musser resulted in what would become one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates.
Aaron had just left Jerrold Electronics to start his own cablebrokerage firm and Musser was his first client. But things weren’t going gangbusters. Musser’s Tupelo, Miss., system had only a few thousand customers and wasn’t performing all that well. Aaron couldn’t find a buyer.
One day, as the story goes according to Roberts’s oral history with the Cable Center, Musser and Aaron saw Roberts walking down the street and Musser muttered to Aaron, “Here comes our fish. He just sold his business and he’s got a lot of money.” Roberts eventually agreed to buy the operation, called American Cable Systems, in the little Mississippi town he had never heard of, on the condition that Aaron would run it.
“I didn’t know anything about cable,” Roberts said in his oral history, conducted in 2000. “I didn’t even know what it was.”
Julian Brodsky was a young accountant who had helped Roberts sell his suspender company and continued to assist him with new investments — not because there was a lot to do, but because he simply liked the cool, calm, collected and charming Roberts. He quit his job with the accounting firm he was working for and announced to Roberts and Aaron they weren’t embarking on their cable journey without him.
The off ices were already cramped and there wasn’t room for one more person, much less a 6-foot-four, 200-plus-pounds guy with a booming baritone voice. But that didn’t stop Brodsky, who promptly brought in a card table from home and set up shop.
The trio soon bought more systems and secured additional franchises. In 1969, Roberts and his partners renamed the cable operations Comcast and the company incorporated in Pennsylvania. It was game on for three guys with totally different personalities and operating styles that, when mixed together, made a formidable team.