Brodsky: Kicking Education Into Higher Gear

JULIAN BRODSKY, the 71-year-old co-founder of Comcast Corp., is adding the CTAM Chairman’s Award to his huge trove of industry honors. This time, the award is for one of his lesser known, but vital, accomplishments: key support for the CTAM Educational Foundation and CTAM’s Executive Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

Brodsky — the gravel-voiced, Wharton School-educated accountant who signed on with Comcast’s first system buy in 1963 (bringing his own card-table and chair) — is best known for his role in the legendary deal-making that built Comcast into far and away the biggest U.S. cable company.

In recent years, he has spearheaded Comcast’s many investments in technology startups through Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC), which he chairs. Many of his latest investments have been in infrastructure builders suppliers that could be meaningful to cable innovation for years to come. They include video-on-demand provider Broadbus Technologies Inc.; voice-over-Internet Protocol switching companies CedarPoint Communications and Syndeo Corp., and interactive-TV developer MetaTV Inc.

CIC’s investor gatherings are also prized for bringing together Silicon Valley venture capitalists, leading-edge technology firms and cable executives to brainstorm future possible directions and consumer applications.

But Brodsky’s work for CTAM at Harvard has had a lasting impact, as well.

He noted in an April 2002 Multichannel News op-ed column advocating educational efforts such as CTAM’s that “the Comcast alumni, in particular, tell me that the experience truly kicked their thinking and skills on business and marketing strategy into high gear.”

Of particular interest is the annual Dan Aaron Lecture for Innovative Management, which Brodsky, Ralph Roberts and Comcast established. CTAM chairman Len Fogge notes that Brodsky selects, accompanies and presents an industry leader (such as Leo J. Hindery Jr. or Decker Anstrom) for the lecture. Brodsky plays an active part, too, engaging in a dialogue with class participants.

Kim Kelly, the former chief operating officer at Insight Communications Co., says she, on the advice of senior vice president Pamela Euler Halling, entered Insight executives into the program.

“The people I sent just raved about it,” Kelly, a longtime friend of Brodsky’s, recalls. “It’s one of the best things that I did, without a doubt. It’s a super program.”

There are many MBA-level courses around, Kelly says. “But this is really tailored to the cable industry. There are case studies about [Tele-Communications Inc.], about [British Sky Broadcasting], DirecTV [Inc.]. So you really talk about issues of marketing, competition, in our own space. First-class professors. It was just brilliant. And Julian really drove that.

“People think of Julian being — and he is — the consummate dealmaker,” Kelly adds. “He really is the best I have ever come across. Very tough — I don’t like to be on the other side of the table from him. And very authoritative. You can just imagine. He’s got this deep voice, big body, and a sharp mind. Those are three killer characteristics in making a deal.

“But his exposure and influence on this industry was really much deeper than just in dealmaking and finance,” Kelly concludes. “He understood marketing; he understood operations, logistics. And he promoted them.”