Cox CEO discusses his exit and what's next
By John M. Higgins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/31/2005 8:00:00 PM
Innovator Jim Robbins' legacy in the cable industry will be the “bundle.” The Cox Communications CEO, 63, was the first operator to launch a combination of video, Internet and telephone products, in 1997. Today, that move is transforming the telecommunications industry, with other operators pushing into the phone business while panicked Baby Bells rush to launch video products. Announcing that he'll retire at the end of the year after 22 years at Cox, Robbins spoke to B&C's John M. Higgins about the bundle and what advice he leaves behind for his successor, COO Pat Esser.
I told Cablevision Chairman Chuck Dolan about your retiring, and he expressed surprise: “He's awfully young, isn't he?”
If I can be as together as Chuck is at almost 80, that would be great. But he owns the joint, and I don't. I'm on the page of QTR: quality time remaining. I've long said I don't want to be one of those trophies sitting around the office for years. One of the risks of having the old farts hang around too long is that some of the good young farts go away. You don't want that to happen.
What do you see coming for the cable industry?
The industry's in a more competitive marketplace than ever. Different operators are in different positions of readiness. We're in a great position, maybe the best of anybody, because of our investment in the platform and execution in selling the video/phone/data bundle. That's what everyone else is chasing.
Someone said to me, “You're getting out at the right time.” I don't think so. In the late '80s, DBS was coming. Then we got reregulated. Three years ago, we were looking at the freight train ESPN coming at us. We've always had these challenges. We're going to have to fight harder because clearly, the telephone companies are coming to play at our table.
That's different from some media executives, who privately tell us they hope they retire before the big technology changes sweep their businesses.
I don't feel that way. As there's more and more demand for capacity, we're best positioned to handle that. If we do it right, we're in a great place.
What advice are you leaving behind for your team?
Keep doing what you're doing. Execute extremely well on the three-product bundle. The phone business absolutely cements the customer relationship.
It seems the hardest transition for you would be no longer being a “player.”
My life isn't all about that. It's about balance and trying to leave behind something that's worthwhile. I've got other things to occupy my mind. I'd like to read some histories, biographies. I'm on a nonprofit that needs some things done. I'm happy to join some corporate boards, though they're riskier these days.
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