Leslie “Les” H. Read, an important fixture at cable events for years, and the well-loved and respected “voice” for the Cable Pioneers, died June 28 while recovering from a recent heart attack. He was 82 years old.
Anyone who has made the cable circuit over the past several decades has likely run into Read, a personable, knowledgeable and respected champion of the industry.
In a career that began in 1958 as a page at NBC in New York, Read retired from the cable business in 2001, but kept strong ties to the industry. He served as executive director of the Cable Pioneers, stepping down from that position in 2016 after being named executive director emeritus. He was succeeded as executive director by Jim Faircloth, but remained the “voice” of the Pioneers, serving as master of ceremonies at the organization’s annual banquet and welcoming each new member with his unique baritone. Read also served as board member of The Cable Center, a member of CTAM: The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, and was a past president of the New York Cable TV Association.
“It is my sad duty to share the devastating news that our friend and colleague, Les Read, known to so many as ‘Mr. HBO’ who was loved by all in our industry, passed away last evening at 7:15 p.m. EDT on Long Island, NY, following treatment for a cardiac condition since last weekend,” Faircloth said in a statement. “You cannot even think of the Cable Pioneers without thinking of Les. Les’ rich baritone has been silenced, but for our memories and the recordings that will always be treasured. There will never be another like Les. We share our most heartfelt condolences and prayers with Les’ wife, Anne, and his entire family.”
Raised in Great Neck, Long Island, Read lived in Port Washington, N.Y. with his wife Anne. Information on services is pending.
Industry executives were quick to offer their reminiscences.
“Throughout his career – and even after he retired – Les Read was an ambassador who drew attention to everything that is good about our industry," said SCTE-ISBE president and CEO Mark Dzuban in a statement. "From his earliest days with TelePrompter and HBO to his work with CTAM, the Cable TV Pioneers and the Cable Center, Les devoted his energy to the advancement of cable and everybody with whom he worked.”
After obtaining a business degree from Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., and a degree in speech/radio and television from Syracuse University, Read started his broadcast and cable career with NBC in New York as a page. He later joined TelePrompter, serving with that company for 15 years selling services and in 1972 becoming vice president of TelePrompter’s CATV division, where he built and operated cable systems in Elmira, N.Y., Great Falls, Mont., and Farmington, N.M. He later developed new franchise areas as director of operations.
Diane Christman, senior vice president of programs and development at The Cable Center, remembered her greatest mentor fondly: “He’s the only person who still called me Kiddo! Les was the first person I called when I started working at The Cable Center. He was an incredible guide and mentor. We would make the rounds at industry events together, and he introduced me to everyone and really helped me get my feet wet. He was funny, charismatic, larger than life. A true friend and mentor to me and so many others. My heart is broken, and I offer my condolences and love to Anne, the kids, and grandkids.”
Jana Henthorn, president and CEO of The Cable Center, also shared her memories of Les and offered her sincerest condolences: “Les made us all smile. He was immensely proud of the cable industry and his role in it. He knew everyone, had more stories than Mark Twain, and a great love for The Cable Center. Not only was he our official Ambassador, he was one of our great champions. Our sincerest condolences to Anne and the family.”
Read joined Home Box Office in February 1974 as manager, affiliate development and was later named director, Northeast region and then director, national accounts. In 1984, he became director, affiliate special projects and in 1998, he was promoted to vice president and remained in that role until his retirement in December 2001. Read worked with HBO's affiliate cable systems on special marketing campaigns and also served as an announcer during on-air promotions.