JR Shaw, Canadian Cable TV Pioneer, Dies at 85

JR_Shaw_Shaw Communications -Publicity -H 2020
Courtesy of Shaw Communications

He founded western Canadian cable giant Shaw Communications and Corus Entertainment, a major acquirer of Hollywood TV series.

JR Shaw, founder of family-controlled Shaw Communications and Corus Entertainment, both major players in the Canadian TV industry, has died. He was 85.

"My family and I are at a loss for words and are deeply saddened at JR’s passing. JR was the founder and leader of our company, but he was also an exceptional husband, a loving father, grandfather and great grandfather. His legacy of love and compassion for people will live on for generations," Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications, said Tuesday in a statement.

No cause of death was offered. Over a 50-year-career, JR — born James Robert Shaw on Aug. 14, 1934 on a family farm in Brigden, Ontario — helped pioneer the Canadian cable TV industry after moving to Alberta in 1961.

In 1966, he launched the cable TV startup Capital Cable Television Co. After regulatory delays, the company acquired its first TV subscribers in Edmonton in 1971.

Growing through acquisitions, JR Shaw eventually turned his western Canadian cable business into Shaw Communications, which today has about 7 million cable and satellite TV subscribers and some 10,000 employees. The vertically integrated Shaw Communications also offers broadband Internet and wireless mobile phone services.

JR Shaw stepped down as CEO of Shaw Communications in 1998 when his eldest son, Jim Shaw, who died at age 60 in January 2018, took over. Current CEO Brad Shaw took on the CEO role in 2010, while JR Shaw stayed on as executive chairman.

Shaw Communications also at one time had extensive TV station and broadcast holdings that were spun off into a separate publicly listed vehicle, Corus Entertainment, also controlled by the Shaw family.

JR Shaw leaves behind his wife, Carol, whom he married in 1956, and children Heather, Julie and Brad, all of whom are involved in the family business.