Harron Chairman Joel Cohen, 63, Dies

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Joel C. Cohen, chairman of cable operator Harron Communications and a member of the Cable TV Pioneers, died Monday of cancer at age 63, the company said.

Funeral services are planned for Wednesday (Sept. 10) at 1:30 p.m. at Crabiel Parkwest Funeral Chapel, 239 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, N.J., Harron said.

Cohen, a National Cable & Telecommunications Association board member who spent more than 30 years in the cable industry, was Harron’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer until he left in 1995. He then formed Avalon Cable TV with partner David Unger and was its CEO until it was sold to Paul Allen’s Charter Communications in November 1999.

“With the passing of Joel Cohen, the cable industry lost a pioneer and leader whose career spanned over 30 years,” NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said in a statement. “As a valued member of NCTA’s Board of Directors, Joel was a strong advocate for the industry, and particularly small cable system operators, and was deeply respected by his many colleagues in the industry and on our board. We all will miss this very dear friend.”

Cohen rejoined Harron as CEO in late 2002 and helped lead its recent growth through acquisitions, with financial backing from private equity firm Boston Ventures.

Harron, too, had mostly sold out to Charter in 1999, keeping only about 30,000 subscribers. Several acquisitions later, Frazer, Pa.-based Harron now has about 200,000 cable subscribers, operating as MetroCast Communications, with systems in nine states.

Cohen was Harron’s CEO and became chairman in early 2006 after Paul F. Harron Jr. died, also at age 63. James J. Bruder Jr. became CEO in January of this year.

“Our company has lost a great asset and dear friend and mentor,” Bruder said in a statement. “Joel was respected by all who knew him and his legacy will live on through his many friends and colleagues at the company he helped to create, and in the cable television industry he so ably served for so many years. He will be sadly missed.”

“He was one of the nicest human beings in the world,” Unger, whom Cohen hired while at TelePrompTer Cable TV in 1979, said. “He was well loved. He was just one of these guys that everybody liked. Smart, great with employees—he was just terrific.”

At TelePrompTer, where Cohen got started in cable, he was controller for both the company and its Manhattan operating system, Harron said. When TPT sold its operations to Westinghouse (Group W Cable), Cohen remained in the regional Group W Cable financial operations. In 1986, Group W Cable was sold to a consortium of cable operators (Time Warner, Comcast, TCI, Century and Daniels) and Cohen became its executive VP and COO.

After the consortium was liquidated, Cohen joined United Artists Entertainment as senior VP of its real estate division and eventually became president of its international division.

A certified public accountant, Cohen was inducted into the Cable TV Pioneers group in May of this year and had been active in various cable organizations, helping to develop best professional practices.

Harron said contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Challah Foundation.

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