Cox Communications Inc. president and CEO James O. Robbins is calling it a day after more than 20 years at the helm of the No. 3 MSO in the country, refocusing his efforts on the nonprofit world.
Robbins announced that he would retire at the end of this year, succeeded by current Cox executive vice president and chief operating officer Patrick Esser.
Robbins has had a colorful career in the cable industry. He came to Cox in 1983 -- becoming president in 1985 and CEO in 1995 -- after stints at Viacom Communications Inc. and Continental Cablevision. A former Navy officer, Robbins brought a no-nonsense management style to Cox.
“Every idiot has his day in the sun, and I’ve had mine,” Robbins said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s time to move on: 20 years on the job, 63 years old, the company going private -- it all works nicely. I’m happy as I can be, and I’m proud of what I leave behind here. My great fear, and I’ve shared this with [Cox chairman] Jim Kennedy for years, is staying around too long.”
He continued, “How many guys do 20 years in the same job? Not many. My fear of staying too long, seeing the business go to hell, things blow up and going out of here with a blow torch in your butt was not my way of trying to make my exit.”
While Robbins will remain on Cox Communications’ board and will join parent Cox Enterprises Inc.’s board in 2006, he said he will also focus on some nonprofit endeavors. He is already the president of the board of trustees at his alma mater, St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., and he is looking at a health-care board to join -- one of his children is a third-year medical student, and another has diabetes.
“We’ll do more nonprofit and may do another business board -- I know a little bit about running companies,” he added. “The mind is not going to go dead, I can tell you that. The hardest problem for me is going to be learning to hitchhike on I-75.”