Cable pioneer named 2011 distinguished entrepreneur

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

- Dianne George

They say a successful entrepreneur is someone who can see just a bit further down the road than the rest of us. This statement rings true for the Gustavson School of Business and its Board of Advisers who are awarding JR Shaw, visionary and founder of Shaw Communications Inc., its 2011 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA).

Shaw launched Capital Cable, the forerunner to today’s giant, in Edmonton in 1966, where he had relocated from Ontario to expand the family pipe coating business. Born James Robert Shaw in 1934, he grew up in Brigden, a small farming community in southern Ontario close enough to the US border to pick up the television signals originating out of nearby Detroit and Cleveland.

“I’d come home and want to watch some TV, but there wasn’t much choice—all I could get was CBC English and French and CTV,” says Shaw. I missed having the extra channels I could get at home.”

JR recognized the opportunity and spent five years negotiating with Ottawa to get the licence. His perseverance paid off, and Capital Cable connected its first customer in 1971.

“A good friend said to me, ‘young man, the real value in the world is real estate, cable is nothing more than a passing fad.’ Needless to say I didn’t listen; we started hanging wires and building our customer base one by one.”

The University of Victoria’s DEYA acknowledges an inspirational entrepreneur who has significant and positive impact on the community through his or her business leadership.

As a result of his perseverance and hard work, today Shaw Communications is a diversified media and communications company with 13,300 employees providing consumers with broadband cable television, high-speed internet, home phone, telecommunication services, satellite direct-to-home services and programming content to 3.4 million customers.

The company’s success is built around Shaw’s commitment customer service, positive attitude, hard work and developing good managers.

Now serving as the executive chair, Shaw thinks of himself as a coach. “You don’t do it by yourself, that’s for sure,” he says. “You can’t grow without good people. I always tried to hire people smarter than myself.”

“JR’s passion for choice and service is at the heart of the Shaw vision,” says Dr. Ali Dastmalchian, dean of the School of Business. “Those twin values, plus a strong work ethic, established JR as one of our country’s most successful entrepreneurs and make him a wonderful role model for our students.”

Shaw learned the value of hard work and gained a commitment to community service from his parents, Francis and Lottie Shaw. His father established the Shaw Foundation to help improve the quality of life for Canadians. JR Shaw followed their inspiration establishing a policy of corporate social responsibility within the company. The foundation and the company support a wide range of activities including the Shaw Teddy Bears for Children program, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, UVic’s CanAssist program, and helped to establish the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.

A recipient of multiple awards and honours, Shaw is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Alberta Order of Excellence. He has also received the Gold Ribbon Award for Broadcast Excellence, three honorary doctors of law degrees and the Confederation of Canada Award from the Government of Canada. He was recently inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame, a North American-wide recognition for his lifetime of service and achievements from his industry peers.

Shaw is the eighth DEYA recipient. His vision and entrepreneurial accomplishments will be celebrated at the annual DEYA gala on Wed., April 27 in Victoria. Shaw joins a select circle of distinguished entrepreneurs: Alex Campbell, co-founder Thrifty Foods (2010); Sir Terence Matthews, a technology entrepreneur and investor in telecommunication ventures (2009); Clive Beddoe, a founding shareholder and executive chair of WestJet (2008); David Black, founder of Canada’s largest privately owned newspaper publishing company (2007); Gwyn Morgan, who established EnCana Corp. as the country’s largest energy company (2006); Dave Ritchie, chair emeritus of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (2005); and Jeff Mallett, former president and chief operating officer of Yahoo (2004).

JR’s vision and entrepreneurial accomplishments was celebrated at the annual black tie gala on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at the Victoria Conference Centre. For DEYA gala tickets visit


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Keywords: gustavson, school, business, deya

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