Founder and Chairman, Cablevision Industries, 2000 Cable Hall of Fame
I am the luckiest guy in the world to have gotten into this (cable) industry at 21 years of age, grown with it and forged the friendships that I have. I cannot think of a better way for a young guy growing up in rural America to participate in the American dream.
The son of a Liberty, NY frozen food distributor who had struggled to keep food on the family table during the Great Depression, Alan Gerry went straight into the Marine Corps from high school. He tried various jobs, studied television repair on the G.I. Bill, and then set up a two-man TV sales, installation and repair business in his hometown.
Because reception was difficult in this mountainous summer resort area 90 miles northwest of Manhattan, Gerry installed antennas at high points around the county, with each providing TV reception for a cluster of 10-15 houses. When he met some people from Jerrold Electronics in 1955, he learned about community antenna television. In 1956, Alan Gerry persuaded seven business men in his Catskills community to invest in the local cable system that he wished to create.
By the early 1970s, having bought out his original investors, Gerry’s company had expanded into Pennsylvania and had a major franchise effort underway in Massachusetts. Then, to continue his expansion, in the late 1970s he obtained a $5.2-million loan from John Hancock Insurance. Into the mid-1980s, Gerry personally guaranteed all the company’s loans. When Cablevision Industries (CVI) crossed the 100,000-sub mark, it financed further expansion by becoming one of the first small companies to access the high-yield (“junk”) bond market.
In the early 1980s, Gerry installed the East Coast’s first high-powered microwave delivery system and then used it to form his first 100,000-sub cluster, by tying together his cable systems in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties. More clusters followed. Gerry built systems in Florida, the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic States.
Gerry was one of the first cable operators to deploy fiber optic cable. CVI bought a Canadian-owned cable system in Los Angeles’ West San Fernando Valley with a poor reliability record, and in 1989 he converted it to fiber. In 1996, he sold CVI to Time Warner.
Gerry’s companies were known for their outstanding customer service, creative financing methods and extremely efficient operation. At the time of the merger, CVI was the largest privately held cable company in the country serving over 1.3 million subscribers in 18 states.
Today, Gerry still lives in the same house where he first repaired TV sets (although it has been greatly expanded). He founded and serves as chairman and CEO of Granite Associates, L.P., a diversified investment company that is active in telephony and communications and has helped many startup Internet companies go public. To help stimulate the depressed economy of his home region, Gerry purchased and resurrected the original 1969 Woodstock Festival site and several hundred surrounding acres. He has attracted music festivals there and is hoping to draw global tourists by transforming the historic pasture into an arts and entertainment complex that will hopefully also serve as the summer home of the New York Philharmonic.
Gerry is still active in many cable organizations, including CablePAC and The Entrepreneurs’ Club. His $10- million donation to the National Cable Center in Denver helped spur $45 million in additional contributions from his fellow industry leaders. Gerry is a major contributor to educational and medical institutions in the communities he serves. He endowed a chair of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, established the Paul Gerry Dialysis Center in Sayre, Pa., put a wing on his local hospital and is involved in a program at Boston University to find a cure for amyloidosis.
In 1995, Mr. Gerry was the recipient of the Vanguard Award, cable television’s most prestigious honor for distinguished leadership. He was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame in 2000. Mr. Gerry has also received the Entrepreneur-of-the-Year Award from the New England chapter of the Institute of American Entrepreneurs, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America and the Americanism Award from the Anti-Defamation League. He has received an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Roger Williams University and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York.