Former Cox CEO Succumbs to Cancer

(Jim Robbins photo gallery) (Jim Robbins video)

Jim Robbins died Wednesday evening in his Westport, Mass. home, after several months of combating cancer.

Robbins, 65, served Cox Communications, based in Atlanta, for 22 years, 20 as chief executive. During his tenure, the company quadrupled in size and became renowned for customer service and innovation. He led the cable television industry into its successful expansion into providing telephone services.

“The passing of our dear friend and valued colleague is a sad event for me, my family and all the employees of Cox,” said Cox Enterprises chairman and CEO Jim Kennedy in a statement. “Jim embodied the spirit of our company – to do the right thing by the people the company touches – employees, customers, vendors, partners and the communities Cox serves. We will miss him terribly.” 

Memorial services for Robbins will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston, Mass., and at 11 a.m. on Oct. 27 at All Saints Episcopal Church, 634 W. Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Ga.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 400 Perimeter Center Terrace, Suite 750, Atlanta, GA 30346 (404.420.5990) or The Melanoma Research Foundation, 170 Township Line Road, Building B, Hillsborough, N.J., 08844. 

Interment is private.  Arrangements are in the care of Waring-Sullivan Home of Memorial Tribute, Fall River, Mass.  

A U.S. Navy veteran who completed two tours of duty during the Vietnam War, Robbins joined Cox in 1983 after stints at Viacom Cable and Continental Cablevision. He was named Cox president in 1985 and added CEO to his title when Cox Communications went public in 1995.

Under his watch, Cox increased its subscriber base from 1.3 million to 6.3 million.

Robbins decided to pass the reins to executive vice president and chief operating officer Patrick Esser in 2006, an executive he had been grooming for the job for years. In an interview in July 2005 after he had announced his intention to retire at the end of that year, Robbins said that that over the years he had three executive vice presidents, chief operating officers in training.

“Pat has absolutely been the home-run selection,” Robbins said in that July 2005 interview.

Esser, who became Cox president in 2006, has long considered Robbins as a mentor and friend.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jim Robbins,”Esser said in a statement. “He was a friend, leader and mentor to countless people, including me, and is widely regarded as an industry pioneer who led our company with brilliant vision, courage and heart. Jim’s influence on Cox and everyone who had the honor of working with him will live on.”

Another long-time Cox executive, former Cox Communications CFO and currently Cox Enterprises president and COO Jimmy Hayes, also was saddened by the news.

“I had the privilege to work with Jim for 16 years during my tenure as CFO for Cox Communications,” Hayes said. “He was a legendary leader, and his singular dedication to the company and our employees taught us all priceless lessons on creating a culture of superior customer service that lives on at all Cox companies and throughout the communications industry.  He will be sorely missed as a friend, confidant and leader.”

A respected leader in the cable industry, Robbins served twice as chairman of the National Cable Telecommunications Association and has won multiple awards, including the industry’s Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership in 1996. Under his leadership, Cox Communications won the J.D. Power Award four times for customer satisfaction in cable and telephone services; was recognized as the industry's best operator three times; and was named the best operator for women twice.

 "On behalf of all of us at NCTA, we express our deepest sympathies to Jim's family and many friends,” NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow said in a statement. “Jim was a relentlessly positive force in the cable industry for nearly four decades and touched the lives of tens of thousands of cable employees.  His commitment to excellence benefited every Cox customer and community and served as an inspiration to the entire industry.  He served with distinction as one of the industry's great ambassadors to policymakers at all levels of government.  We will deeply miss his humor, compassion, and guidance.” 

Robbins is survived by his wife Debby; their three daughters, Jane Brooks Robbins, Payson Robbins Murray and Hilary Robbins Thomas; his brother, E.Brooks Robbins; and sister, Barbara R.Anderson.