C. Malone is the Chief Executive Officer of TeleCommunications,
Inc. (TCI), the largest operator of cable systems in the United
States. Malone has overseen TCI's phenomenal growth from the time
of his arrival at the company in 1972, and in the process has come
to be regarded as among the most powerful people in the television
industry. He has been praised by many for his outstanding business
acumen and his technological foresight, but at the same time, he
has also acquired a less flattering reputation for his hardball
style of business practice. Among those who have been openly critical
of Malone in this latter vein was then Tennessee Senator Albert
Gore, who dubbed Malone the "Darth Vader" of the cable industry.
began his career at AT and T Bell Labs in the mid-1960s, before
moving on to become a management consultant for McKinsey & Company
in 1968. He received his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Johns
Hopkins in 1969, and soon joined the General Instrument Corporation,
where he became president of its Jerrold cable equipment division.
It was here that he first established ties to many of the cable
industry's pioneers. In 1972, he turned down an offer from Steve
Ross of Warner Communications to head its fledgling cable division,
opting instead to leave the East Coast to accept an offer from TCI
founder Bob Magness to run the small cable company from its Denver
joined TCI just before it fell into very difficult times. Malone's
first major success at TCI was in negotiating a restructuring of
the company's heavy debt load. Once freed from the burden of this
debt, Malone embarked on a conservative growth strategy for TCI.
Rather than attempting to expand its holdings by building large
urban cable systems at great expense, as many other cable companies
did in the late 1970s, Malone focused TCI's growth efforts on gaining
franchise rights in smaller communities, where the costs to build
the systems would be far less onerous. The wisdom of Malone's strategy
soon became evident. TCI was able to grow without encountering the
exceedingly high costs associated with building capital intensive
urban cable systems, and in the early 1980s, it was able to purchase
several existing large market systems, such as those in Pittsburgh
and St. Louis, at bargain prices from companies that had financially
overextended themselves in the construction process.
TCI grew throughout the 1980s, so did its power within the television
industry. The company invested heavily in programming services,
and currently holds stakes in more than 25 different cable networks.
But TCI's success has been sometimes overshadowed by the public's
perception of it as a heavy-handed company that occasionally resorts
to bullying tactics to achieve its desired ends. For instance, in
TCI's earlier days, some of its systems were known to replace entire
channels of programming for days at a time, leaving these channels
blank except for the names and home phone numbers of local franchising
officials. The strategy aimed to gain leverage in franchise negotiations.
Fairly or not, Malone came to personify TCI and its negative public
despite its poor public relations record, few would deny that Malone
and TCI are among the most powerful forces shaping the television
industry as it moves into the next century. Like Paley and Sarnoff
of an earlier era, Malone exercises great control over what America's
television viewers will or will not see. Nearly one in four cable
subscribers in the United States is served by a TCI system, and
these viewers are directly affected by the decisions Malone makes.
Even those who are not TCI subscribers feel Malone's influence,
because access to the critical mass of viewers represented by TCI's
cable systems is crucial to any programmer's success. Programmers
often must seek to gain positions on TCI systems in order to gather
the audience numbers that provide solid financial status. John Malone
is therefore in the position of a gatekeeper who wields enormous
influence over the entire television marketplace, which helps to
explain another nickname sometimes applied to him--"The Godfather"
of cable television.
most ambitious undertaking was an attempted merger between TCI and
regional telephone company Bell Atlantic. Announced in October 1993,
the deal was scuttled four months later after financial and philosophical
concerns left the two companies unable to reach a final accord.
Despite the merger's failure, the venture is indicative of Malone's
vision and resolve to secure TCI's place in the future television
marketplace. TCI continues to expand its empire by purchasing more
cable systems, forging alliances with other cable companies and
telephone service providers, and strengthening its non-U.S. holdings
in cable and telecommunications. These connections position the
company for a central role in an emerging full-service communications
marketplace. But whatever the future holds for TCI, John Malone
already has cemented his place as one of the key shapers of the
American television landscape over the last quarter of the 20th
Photo courtesy of TCI
MALONE. Born in Milford, Connecticut, U.S.A., 7 March 1941.
Attended Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, Phi Beta Kappa,
B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Economics 1963, and M.S. in Industrial
Management 1964; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland,
Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering 1969. Married: Leslie; two children.
Began professional career in economic planning and research and
development with Bell Telephone Laboratories/AT and T, 1963; worked
as management consultant for McKinsey & Co., 1968; group vice president,
General Instrument Corporation; former president, cable equipment
division, Jerrold Electronics Corporation (a General Instrument
Corporation subsidiary); president and chief executive officer,
Tele-Communications Inc., Denver, since 1973; chair of board for
Cable Television Laboratories, Inc.; director, National Cable Television
Association (NCTA), 1974-77 and 1980-93, and treasurer, 1977-78;
serves on board of directors for TCI, Bank of New York, Turner Broadcasting
System, Inc., and Discovery Communications, Inc. Recipient: TVC
Magazine Man of the Year Award, 1981; Wall Street Transcript's Gold
Award for the cable industry's best chief executive officer, 1982,
1985, 1986, and 1987; NCTA Vanguard Award, 1983; Wall Street's Transcript
Silver Award, 1984 and 1989; named as Women in Cable's Betsy Magness
Fellowship Honoree; University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Sol
C. Snider Entrepreneurial Center Award of Merit for Distinguished
Entrepreneurship; American Jewish Committee Sherrill C. Corwin Human
Relations Award; Communications Technology Magazine Service and
Technology Award; Financial World CEO of the Year Competition, 1993;
Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Alumnus Award, 1994. Honorary
degree: Doctor of Humane Letters, Denver University, 1992. Address:
Tele-Communications, Inc., Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
"Another TBS Network Envisioned by Malone." Broadcasting
(Washington, D.C.), 11 May 1987.
Looks to the Future with Cable Labs." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 5 June 1989.
Paints Rosy Picture for IRTS." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 20 March 1989.
"Malone Urges Creation of Bandwidth Manager; TCI Wants Vendors to
Come up with a Residential Communications Gateway Unit." Broadcasting
& Cable (Washington, D.C.), 15 August 1994.
Sharon D. "TCI's Malone: Cable Nearing Compression Revolution."
Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.), 18 March 1991.
Johnnie L. "Time's Uneasy Pieces." Newsweek (New York), 2
Gary. "You Gotta Consolidate, You Gotta Swap" (interview). Forbes
(New York), 19 December 1994.
States: Cable Television