Dan Aaron, 77, one of the three co-founders of cable giant Comcast Corp., died Feb. 20, after years of suffering from Parkinson's disease.
Comcast was just starting to become a great force in the media business when Aaron stepped down in 1991—three years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
He told co-founders Ralph Roberts and Julian Brodsky that he couldn't do the job any longer. A couple of years later, he quit the company's board, unable to travel from his Florida home to attend board meetings in Philadelphia.
But Aaron was once as hard-charging as Comcast itself is today. A former business reporter for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, he wrote an article about Milton Schapp, CEO of cable equipment maker Jerrold Electronics (which later became General Instrument). Aaron later joined Schapp as his public relations man, then left to become a cable-system broker.
That's when he encountered Roberts, who had recently sold his Philadelphia clothing store. Aaron coaxed Roberts into investing in a cable system in Tupelo, Miss., and agreed to help him run it. With Brodsky raising the money, the trio began buying and building other systems.
"Dan was the guy running the company for the first 25 years," Brodsky said. But Aaron and Brodsky reversed roles. Usually, the CEO wants to charge ahead, and the CFO tries to pull the reins. At Comcast, it was CFO Brodsky who pushed to move aggressively. "Dan was the conscience. Every decision was unanimous, and, once we made it, we never looked back."
In an autobiography, Aaron revealed that his father—a Jewish lawyer in Giessen, Germany—fled the country in 1937 after being held briefly by Nazi authorities and moved to New York City. His mother committed suicide in 1939; his father did the same three weeks later.
Aaron is survived by his wife, Geraldine, and five children. Services were held last week.
Donations may be made to the Dan Aaron Parkinson's Foundation, Box 58070, Philadelphia, PA 19102.