Ralph Roberts, Comcast Founder, Dies at 95

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Ralph Roberts

The father of chairman and CEO Brian Roberts was one of the pioneers of the U.S. cable industry.

Ralph Roberts, the founder of Comcast, father of chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and pioneer of U.S. cable television, has died at age 95, the company said Friday.  

Roberts died of natural causes Thursday night in Comcast's hometown of Philadelphia, the company said.

He was the company's CEO and chairman and had the title of chairman emeritus in recent years. His son became president in 1990 and CEO in 2002, adding the chairman title in 2004. He continued to grow the company, including via acquisitions, and made it the largest U.S. cable operator. The son also acquired NBCUniversal, making Comcast a distribution and content giant.

Ralph Roberts founded Comcast in 1963 with the purchase of a 1,200-subscriber cable system in Tupelo, Miss. He then grew the company from a small, regional cable company into the global Fortune 50 company. He later grew it through acquisitions and took it public.

Internally, he was often called the heart and soul of Comcast, with Brian Roberts often lauding his father at shareholder meetings and other events. At the most recent shareholder meeting in May, the CEO said: "If you invested with my dad, Ralph, in 1972 and bought 1,000 shares of the stock at $7, you have now $8.6 million." He said the stock's compound rate of return for all those years was nearly double the S&P 500's.

Outside of his Comcast work, he was involved in the fight against cancer and in 2006, along with wife Suzanne and his family, helped establish the Roberts Proton Therapy Center at Penn Medicine.

The couple was recently presented with the Philadelphia Award in recognition of their contributions to the city of Philadelphia in the worlds of business, philanthropy and arts and culture. Suzanne was an actress, director and the host of Seeking Solutions with Suzanne.

Ralph Roberts is survived by his wife of more than 70 years, four children and their spouses and eight grandchildren. His children are Catherine Clifton, Lisa Roberts, Ralph Roberts Jr. and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

"Ralph was a born entrepreneur, a visionary businessman, a philanthropist and a wonderful human being," Comcast said in a statement. "Ralph built Comcast into one of America's greatest companies and his vision and spirit have been at the heart of Comcast and our culture for 50 years. He will be truly missed. Ralph’s greatest love was his family, and our deepest sympathies go to his wife Suzanne and the entire Roberts family."

The family will host a private service for family members. There are also plans for a remembrance ceremony in the future.

The Roberts family said in a statement: "Ralph was a remarkable man who touched the lives of so many people. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and perhaps most importantly, a kind and humble human being. He will always be remembered for his generosity, integrity, honesty, kindness and respect for everyone around him. He was an inspiration to us all and we will miss him greatly.”

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