They say the true mark of a person is the friends they make along the way and the legacy they leave behind after they're gone. If that is the case, then Ralph Roberts has truly led a blessed life.
Roberts died Thursday in Philadelphia from natural causes at 95, leaving a wife of 70 years and children who have modeled their lives after a man whose friends and colleagues describe him as a person of grace, integrity, honesty and vision. Roberts may have been a successful businessman – the company he founded with just 1,200 customers in Mississippi in 1963 has grown today into the largest cable and telecom company in the country with about 22 million video customers – but his greatest legacy may be the friends he has made and the people he has helped over what has been an amazing life.
While he hasn’t been involved in day-to-day operations for years – his son Brian became CEO in 2002 and added chairman in 2006 – his imprint remains on Comcast and the cable industry as a whole. Comments from top industry executives who have known and worked with Ralph Roberts for years have been flooding in since the news of his passing broke this morning. Here are some examples.
"Ralph Roberts was one-of-a-kind; a consummate gentleman, businessman, father, husband; friend to all who knew him. Most of all, I will miss the smile, the bow tie, and the gentle sense of humor."
-- Liberty Media chairman John Malone
“Our thoughts are with his wife Suzanne, Brian and the Roberts family. Ralph Roberts forged a path of innovation for our industry and dedicated so much of his life to building its future. We celebrate his entrepreneurial and humble spirit.”
-- Cox Communications CEO Patrick Esser
“Ralph Roberts was a giant not only in cable and entertainment but also in the modern history of American business. We had the honor of working with him for nearly half a century and came to admire his many personal qualities including his devotion to his family and his enduring commitment to the company he founded and built. He was our friend, we will miss him dearly. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Roberts family and the many thousands of people who had the good fortune of knowing and working with Ralph Roberts.”
-- Cablevision Systems chairman Charles Dolan and CEO James Dolan and the Dolan family
"Ralph Roberts had the foresight to recognize the potential of cable and the work ethic to bring his vision to life, but what truly set him apart were his integrity, his gentlemanly manner and the value he placed on giving back to the industry and the community. All of us are better off for having had Ralph in our midst. Our hearts are with those he loved so much: his family, his friends and of course his Comcast 'family .'"
-- SCTE president and CEO Mark Dzurban
“Ralph Roberts was a pioneer, a visionary and a role model. He exemplified the value of working hard and treating others with kindness and respect. His influence has extended far beyond Comcast and Cable. His life’s work, and the legacy he leaves, helped shape the way consumers use content today and how they communicate with one another. On behalf of everyone at Time Warner Cable, I send our sympathy and love to Ralph’s family and to everyone at Comcast.”
-- Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Rob Marcus
“NCTA is deeply saddened by the passing of Ralph Roberts, one of our country's greatest business pioneers and a man who truly embodied the American dream. He built much of the cable industry with his own hands, taking a small nascent service offering consumers greater television choices and building it into one of the most significant industries in the country today. Ralph's impact will live on forever.
"Ralph was a man of grace. He showed us that you can succeed, while remaining warm, kind and generous to others. His impact on the lives of friends, colleagues and family are his greatest legacy. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go to his wife Suzanne, son Brian and the entire Roberts family."
-- NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell
“With unmatched skill and devotion, Ralph Roberts was a business legend who took tiny Comcast from its humble start in Tupelo, Miss., and turned it into one of the most important media companies in the United States in just a few decades.
“Amid a digital revolution that disrupted and confused so many in the business world, Ralph Roberts saw the future clearly and encouraged Comcast to become a broadband and technology innovator benefiting industry and consumers here and around the world. At heart, Mr. Roberts was an entrepreneur like so many of our members, and we will miss his passion for our industry.
“This is a sad day, but we appreciate and will remember what Mr. Roberts did throughout his legendary career to encourage us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Roberts family at this sorrowful moment.”
-- American Cable Association president Matt Polka
"Ralph was a true cable industry pioneer and Philadelphia gentleman. His contributions to the development and continued success of the cable industry are numerous, and his legacy will endure for generations to come. Our thoughts are with the Roberts family and the entire Comcast organization."
-- Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge
"Ralph Roberts is a great American success story. We have many fond memories of Ralph and greatly appreciate his company’s support for C-SPAN and Ralph’s overall commitment to civic involvement and public service."
-- C-SPAN Executive Chairman Brian Lamb
"Ralph Roberts was so much more than a fellow cable entrepreneur. His dapper elegance, humility, and kind demeanor belied the man of steel, tough negotiator, risk-taker and visionary who, during his lifespan, propelled Comcast from a small rural cable operator to a global leadership position in our business. Not only does he leave behind a loving extended family, but he also leaves the Comcast family with the knowledge and pride that his legacy will live on under the excellent leadership of his son Brian."
-- Mediacom Communications chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso