James O. Robbins, a board member of Cox Enterprises and for 20 years its president, died yesterday.
Robbins joined Cox in 1983 and was named president in 1985. He also became CEO when Cox went public in 1995. He was elected to Cox’s board following his retirement in 2006.
Robbins led the company as it grew to become the third largest cable operator in the country, and more. Cox was among the first MSOs to branch into telephony and business services.
Under his leadership, Cox transformed itself into a corporate role model for fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, delivering a superior customer experience and giving generously to the communities in which it operates, the company said.
“The passing of our dear friend and valued colleague is a sad event for me, my family and all the employees of Cox,” said Jim Kennedy, Cox Enterprises chairman and chief executive officer. “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.”
Robbins was a mentor to his hand-picked successor, Cox President Pat Esser. Esser said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jim Robbins. 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.”
Robbins was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a BA in American Studies, and of Harvard University, where he earned an MBA. He served as a destroyer line officer and a gunboat flotilla public affairs officer during two tours of duty with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967.
Early in his career, he was managing editor of WBZ-TV News in Boston. From 1972 to 1979, he served in various management positions for Continental Cablevision of Ohio Inc., and Montachusett Cable Television.
He joined Cox from Viacom, where he had been VP and GM for Viacom Cable of Long Island, N.Y., and then SVP of operations for Viacom Communications.
Cox hired him as vice president of its New York City operations in 1983. While at Cox, he served twice as chairman of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). He earned several industry awards, including the Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership in 1996. In October 2006, he was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife, Debby Robbins; their daughters Jane Brooks Robbins, Payson Robbins Murray, and Hilary Robbins Thomas; his brother, E. Brooks Robbins; and his sister, Barbara R. Anderson.