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Brian Roberts: Mysterious Media Mogul

Brian Roberts is on track to run a massive, vertically integrated media giant.

But unlike some of his fellow media moguls, he doesn't have high-profile family drama (Sumner Redstone ), spark controversy in the media by picking fights with Google (Rupert Murdoch ), and he's not a fixture on the red carpet (Les Moonves ).

Brian L. Roberts
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Brian L. Roberts

So who is Brian Roberts?

He comes off as soft spoken and thoughtful. His friends describe him as driven and competitive — he recently decided to compete in a triathlon — and a great squash player.

From the time he was a kid assembling coupon books for Comcast customers — his dad's company — Roberts was determined to join the family business. The only one of five kids who had a real affinity for cable, Roberts started at Comcast when he was 22, he proved himself amongst industry veterans and has been at the company for the past 28 years, growing and diversifying the company his father built.

The cable business has a history of leverage issues, but Roberts has a reputation for financial discipline. Under his leadership the company has paid down Comcast's massive debt, paying dividends and enacting larger and larger share buybacks. And the company has always had plenty of cash on hand to make acquisitions, which has been a constant at the company.

Roberts didn't become CEO until 2002, but industry watchers say he truly came into his own the prior year, when he led negotiations for Comcast's acquisition of AT&T broadband. The deal closed in 2002, making Comcast the nation's largest cable company.

Roberts had an affinity for content early on, putting events like boxing matches exclusively on his cable system. Over the years Comcast purchased channels like QVC and E Entertainment, as well as a stake in MGM that gave the cable carrier access to MGM films for its video-on-demand service. And nothing speaks to Comcast's interest in content like its failed $66 billion bid for Disney . Comcast is family controlled, so his fans point out that Roberts has been able to take a longer-term view, rather than managing for quarterly numbers like rival public companies.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.