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Shaw Communications Founder JR Shaw Dies at 85

Shaw Communications founder, executive chairman and former CEO JR Shaw died Tuesday, according to the company. He was 85 years old.

Known as "JR," James Robert Shaw was born in 1934 on a family farm in Brigden, Ontario and helped build the Canadian cable business, founding Capital Cable Television in 1966 in Edmonton, Alberta. During the next several years, he built Shaw Communications (it changed the name after going public in 1983) into one of the biggest cable companies in Canada. It currently has about 7 million video, voice, data and wireless customers and around 10,000 employees.

JR Shaw

JR Shaw

Shaw was an aggressive buyer and seller of small and large cable systems. The company later built a substantial radio and television broadcasting group, spinning out those assets into a separate company -- Corus Entertainment -- in 1991.

Shaw expanded into the U.S. in 2001 through its purchase of Canadian operator Moffat Communications, which also had some systems in Florida and Texas. U.S. Those properties were sold -- to Bright House Networks (now Charter Communications) and Cequel III (now Suddenlink) in 2003. 

JR Shaw retired in 1998, passing the baton to his now late son Jim, but remaining as executive chairman of the company. Through the year he continued to play a role in the business.

“My family and I are at a loss for words and are deeply saddened at JR’s passing,” Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications and JR’s youngest son, said in a press release. “JR was the founder and leader of our company, but he was also an exceptional husband, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His legacy of love and compassion for people will live on for generations.”

“I spoke to JR every day about the business,” Brad Shaw continued. He was engaged and interested in everything the company was doing – from the latest technology being rolled out to how we were meeting the needs of families across Western Canada. We know we will miss his smile, his advice and his encouragement, but all of our people know that JR would want us looking out for each other, for our neighbours, and serving our customers to the best of our abilities. Our tribute to him will be to continue to grow the business he loved.”

Colleagues and business associates remembered JR Shaw as smart, engaging and visionary.

“JR – that’s how we all knew him – was an archetype of the cable entrepreneur,” said SCTE-ISBE president and CEO Mark Dzuban. “He always had the best interests of the industry at heart, even when acting in Shaw’s own self-interest might have been more advantageous. He knew how to get things done, but it was his honesty, his integrity and the value he placed on personal relationships that really stood out.”

“JR was an icon in the industry, and he was extraordinarily passionate in delivering connectivity and customer service to millions of Canadians,” Shaw Communications lead director Paul Pew said in the press release. “His vision and insight combined with his warmth of character created a magic touch among everyone who knew and worked with him. His remarkable legacy will live on through his family’s continued leadership of the company.”

Shaw has received numerous awards and honors over the years, including being named Officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Alberta Order of Excellence, honorary degrees from University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa and being named to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame and the Cable Hall of Fame in 2010. He also helped create the Shaw Charity Classic, a PGA Tour event that has raised more than $48 million for Alberta charities since 2013, according to the company.

Shaw Communications said that Brad Shaw will assume JR’s role as executive chairman on an interim basis in addition to his CEO duties. The appointment is expected to be confirmed at Shaw’s annual board meeting on April 9.

“The board of directors and all employees of Shaw Communications express their deepest condolences and sympathy to the Shaw family for their loss,” Shaw’s board said in the press release.

JR Shaw is survived by his wife Carol, son Brad, daughters Heather and Julie and his sisters Bertha and Dolly as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son Jim and brother Les. Funeral arrangements are not known at this time.