Interview Date: Thursday September 09, 1999
Interview Location: Denver, CO; Washington, DC
Interviewer: Marlowe Froke
Program: Hauser Project
First part of interview was conducted in Denver, CO, September 9, 1999. The second part was conducted in Washington, DC, December 12, 2001
FROKE: This is the Oral and Video history of Glenn R. Jones, the president and chief executive officer of Jones Intercable Incorporated and later Jones knowledge.com. The history is made possible by a gift from the Hauser Foundation’s Oral and Video History Project of the National Cable Television Center and Museum. The date is September 9, 1999 and we are recording in the production studio of the corporate headquarters of Jones here at 9697 E. Mineral Ave., Denver, Colorado.
My name is Marlowe Froke. I’m president emeritus of The Cable Center and a member of its Board of Directors and one of the interviewers for the Oral and Video History project.
Mr. Jones was one of those people in the United States who after WWII began to move into a new type of telecommunications called cable communications. He was an entrepreneur, one of the few who worked against government regulations, the competition and opposition of other media and all of many other factors that made it very, very difficult to get the business started. But indeed it got started, spread nationwide, spread across the world and Mr. Jones’ enterprise activity by the turn of the century had ended up with a value of property of well over $1,000,000. In addition to his business acumen, Mr. Jones, like several other of the cable operators, had a deep sense of social good, a social conscience that prompted him to move in the direction of using the technology for social good as well as primarily education, especially adult education and higher education. He went on when he had completed his entrepreneurial activities and private enterprise to found the educational initiatives that began first with Mind Extension University and then graduated to become Jones knowledge.com. It is, then, one of the major educational initiatives by the cable industry and the use of technology for higher education in the United States and the world.
Glenn, I can imagine that your profit margin for Jones knowledge.com is considerably less than for Jones Intercable Inc.
JONES: Well, that’s true – for now. But it was scale. I mean it could be even a larger enterprise.
FROKE: And here you’re speaking of the world-wide applications.
FROKE: As we move ahead with this visit we’ll get into more detail about the scope and the breadth of your educational activities which are obviously terribly impressive and without a doubt you have the lead in what’s now called distance education or distance learning as you so well know. What I’d like to do is go back in your growing up in Pennsylvania in the western part of the state, what was it in your family life that gave you this social conscience, this sense of public good that has driven your career? You’ve been highly successful financially, but beyond that there’s something very, very special about you and what you’ve been doing in cable.
JONES: I don’t really know. I don’t know that I have an answer for that question. My parents weren’t particularly that way. They weren’t not that way, but, you know …
FROKE: Your father was a coal miner, is that right?
JONES: Well, he’d started out as a coal miner and then my oldest brother got killed in a car accident in front of our house in this little town called Jackson Center, Pennsylvania.
FROKE: Oh my.
JONES: And so we packed up and moved to a dead-end street in what was then called Hickory, Pennsylvania, just right outside of Sharon, Pennsylvania, now called Hermitage. And so I grew up in principally on a dead-end street with a big oak tree at the end of it and several cars wrapped themselves around that oak tree at night because there was a hill and I could hear them at night getting started and cranking up thinking that it was a through street and just …. That oak tree was immovable.
FROKE: Was the move to the dead end street motivated on the part of your parents by the death of your brother?
JONES: Yes it was, yes, the death of Danny.
FROKE: How old was he when he was killed?
JONES: Oh, I was really … couldn’t have been more than 3, 4, something like that.
FROKE: He was older than you?
JONES: Yes, he was. Maybe he was a little older…. It was too long ago for me to remember.
FROKE: So you don’t have a deep recollection of the circumstances other than an awareness of it.
FROKE: What was your father’s name?
JONES: Elvin. Elvin Robert.
FROKE: And your mother’s name?
JONES: She was entirely Welsh as well. Her name was Genevieve Jenkins, Viola Genevieve Jenkins.
FROKE: Was she first generation immigrant?
JONES: She was second, my father was first, first meaning that his grandfather came over. On my mother’s side, her father’s father came over.
FROKE: Your father must have had a deep appreciation of education because it would appear in your background that he was insistent that once you finish your formal schooling that you go on to college.
JONES: Well, nobody went to college in my family at that time.
FROKE: So you were the first college …
JONES: … Yes. Nobody had gone. Yes. My mother graduated from high school and I still have her diploma up in my den. It was in my bedroom when three of us slept in the same bed but it was at the end of the bed was that diploma. My father just went to 8th grade basically. He did, in retrospect, have some sense of it because the only books that were beside our bed was a sort of orange crate bookcase affair with the Harvard Classics in it.
FROKE: My lord.
JONES: And so I was sick. I had scarlet fever 3 times although you’re supposed to have it only once. It was probably misdiagnosed 2 times. But I spent a lot of time at home with the quarantine sign out front. So the only thing I had around to read were the Harvard Classics. I read Pascal’s “Thoughts” and Dante’s “Inferno” and things like that.
FROKE: Were the Harvard Classics acquired by him as gifts or someone had given him then?
JONES: You know, I don’t really know. I suspect that they were blue and he probably acquired them second-hand from someplace. Anyway, there they were.
FROKE: So by proximity he thought maybe they would brush off on you, which they obviously did.
JONES: I have no idea what he thought. He was an advocate of Reader’s Digest. He thought, and told me many times, that if a person read the Reader’s Digest avidly for 4 years, it was the equivalent of a college education. He considered it such. He had a Ph.D. many times over during his life.
FROKE: I thought those aphorisms were only in South Dakota which was my state but apparently they penetrated Pennsylvania.
JONES: Yes, right.
FROKE: How did you get to Findley, Ohio then?
JONES: Well, it was funny. I was a Boy Scout. I was an Eagle Scout, and I ended up teaching archery and swimming at scout camp. I started out as a bugler because I was 14, something like that, and I tried to get a summer job at the scout camp. They said, “Well, first place you’re too young to be a counselor and second place, everything is filled except a bugler.” They asked if I could play a bugle and I said, “Yes.” They were astounded at that, and so I got the job as camp bugler, Camp Andashawa. But then I had to go down and buy a bugle at the second-hand store and learn how to play it. But by the time camp started, I could blow all the bugle calls.
FROKE: So Findley was not a college?
JONES: Well, so what happened anyway…
JONES: …in my junior year of high school I won this competition in the Boy Scouts to be sent to France as an emissary for the World Jamboree and came back and that kind of change life. I went around speaking about all this because in those days … and going to Europe is – everybody does it now – but you know back then it was a different kind of thing. At any rate, because of scout camp and that and other things, a group of local businessmen formed a committee to send me to Yale. It was a full scholarship kind of thing.
FROKE: This in Hickory?
JONES: Yes, in Hickory – and Sharon. These businessmen were basically from Sharon. So they got me in. But the condition was that I had to go to a prep school for a half a year to pick up math, grammar that I missed because I was not the ideal student up until my senior year of high school. I missed mostly because of deportment problems and things like that. I missed a lot of things. But I didn’t know what a prep school was. I just wasn’t in to it. I said I wouldn’t do that, which was the stupidest move of my life, one of many. So I got a job in Sharon Steel, in the coal roll department and it was in a swing shift. It was great down there with Italian, Polish and Romanian immigrants. It was just a melting pot. It was very interesting and I was making money. So one day that September – I worked during the summer – I came home and went to sleep and woke up and my father was hitting my feet with his hand. He pointed to this cardboard suitcase – it looked like it was leather but it was really cardboard – which was all packed and said, “Son, today we’re going to college.” I had no idea. He had worked this deal through the, we belonged to the Church of God which is sort of a fundamentalist church, not that we attended very much. But they had a college out in Findley, Ohio that they trained ministers. So I got sent off to ministerial school abruptly, which was not anything like I would have in mind. They just drove me out there, dropped me off and went back home. So I was in college. So that’s how I got to college. Long story.
FROKE: How long were you at Findley, then?
JONES: One year.
FROKE: One year. And that constituted the prep school taking care of the deficiencies.
JONES: Well, you know, I thought I was going to flunk out. Because Yale said I had to go to prep school or I couldn’t come to Yale. And I knew I’d missed grammar completely, math completely. I became president of the Spanish Language Club so I didn’t have to learn Spanish. I was just busy putting together all the parties . I didn’t learn any Spanish. So I was really ill-equipped to go to college. So what I decided to do was – I got a room in this house where the guy – it was the same room I was told by the people that lived there and others around there, Marilyn Miller had lived across the street – and this was a room where the guy that wrote “Down By the Old Mill Stream” had lived. So I was in his room. I was just sure I was going to flunk out. So I decided the only way, I’m going to have to study more than anybody else. So what I did was I went to the library and got some books on sleep to see if I could maybe recoup some of that night time I needed for study so that I could stay up with everybody. Well, I did. I found out that the first three hours of sleep were the most important and the last three hours and the in between 3 hours or whatever it was didn’t really make much difference. So that’s what I did. I would study and then I would go to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 wake up at 12, study to 3, go back to bed, wake up at 6 and go to school. So I did that for a semester and I did famously. I got terrific grades. So then I figured I could get a part-time job. So I ended with two part-time jobs the second semester and one kept me there through the summer. One of them was sort of in show biz kind of a thing. There was a group that was trying to bring back Vaudeville. I played the piano by ear, and I had written this song called “Baker Street Boogie”. I lived on Baker Street, 130 Baker Avenue in Sharon. So the guy said, and he was a famous old hoofer on Broadway, …
FROKE: … So you played bar piano?
FROKE: You played bar piano? Is that what you’re leading up to?
JONES: It was just they wanted acts. So I went down. I was working on this crazy sleep schedule and everything and I had this job at the Bazley’s Meat Market already. It was a part time job, but they close at night. So I thought if I could get a job at night and it wasn’t every night, I could have another job. Anyway, I went down there and Ray said, “Well what do you do?” I said, “I have this song that I play on the piano,” and he said, “Well, play it.” So I played it. He said, “O.K.” He said, “Do I have a suit?” And I did. I had a suit. I got it for graduation. So he said to come down to the Findley Theater at 8:00. What they did was a movie, then the show.
FROKE: Okay, okay. I follow you now.
JONES: So I said, “Well, what do I do?” He said, “Well, you just go back stage and we’ll have an emcee. Do you know what an emcee is?” “No, I don’t know what an emcee is” So he had to explain what an emcee did. “So this guy’s going to call you out and you’re going to play your song. There’ll be dancers and magicians and all that kind of stuff. You’re going to play your song, and people clap a little bit and then you walk off.” That’s what I did. Then so that – anyway, it’s a long story – so that got me into dancing. He said, “I bet you get pretty good grades at school, don’t you.” And I said, “Yes, I do, currently.” He said, “Well, look, how would you … I have this prize student who lost her dancing partner and she’s an adagio dancer and she needs a partner.” I said, “Well, I can’t afford any dancing lessons.” He said, “Well, I’ll teach you for nothing because she needs a partner. She’s paying for dancing lessons.” So I said “Okay.” So we started doing that a little bit, then he said, “Have you ever thought about tap dancing?” I said, “No, and I don’t have any money.” He said, “Well, but you work at the meat store.” I said, “Yes. Well, I get a discount at the meat store.” So I sold everybody in the studio meat from the meat store and I get a discount so I used that to get free tap dance lessons. So all this ended up in the papers. And this is a very religious school. We had mandatory chapel three times a week and swimming with girls was sinful and dancing was sinful and it was hard to do anything that wasn’t sinful. One day, I didn’t know this, but it showed in the Entertainment Section – is my name and I think my picture or something. And the dean – it’s a small town, he reads the papers – so he called me and said, “Is this you?” I couldn’t lie to the guy so I said “Yes.” So that was sinful. But then school was over. So anyway, but I was going to get kicked out of school basically if I continued these sinful ways.
FROKE: So you left before you were expelled then?
JONES: Yes, so I went back to Pennsylvania. My father, of course, heard about all this, and he liked music and it was okay to play the piano, it was a manly thing. But dancing was a sissy thing, and he was worried about the surrounding people. So I was sort of summoned back to Sharon and I explained, “Look, I just can’t go to school out there because there’s nothing to do. I can go to school, but you gotta be doing something else because there’s nothing else to do in Findley that’s exciting for me.” So we agreed that while I could transfer to Allegheny College if I could get good grades.
FROKE: In Meadville.
JONES: In Meadville. So I transferred to Allegheny College. Then life was more fun. It was sort of a little country club college – a great, great college – had a great experience there.
FROKE: Majored in economics?
JONES: I admit I just barely majored. I was there for 2 ½ years and counted up my credits and I had enough to graduate. I was a semester ahead of everybody else so I decided I’ll take the last semester in the school of hard knocks. The Korean War was on too. The draft was chasing everybody too. So I hitchhiked out to San Diego, and I had $50 or something like that when I left. I thought that was enough money. But I was broke by the time I got to San Diego. I had no money so I went to the YMCA and they let me stay there and live there until I could get a job, which I did. I got a job at the aircraft factory there, General Dynamics, putting jet pods on B 36 bombers, and there was a Greek restaurant. In fact, about 2 years ago I was out in San Diego and I tried to find this Greek restaurant. The YMCA is now a PacTel switched site. The Greek restaurant is gone but the guy used to give me free rice pudding, so I’d have something to eat. And he was such a terrific guy. When I’d had my rice pudding, I’d see other people getting it. He took care of everybody. This guy was really a good human being. But he was gone so I had no way of getting a hold of him to repay or anything. Then I end up in the Navy.
FROKE: So you went from Allegheny College out to San Diego and then into the Navy where you were an officer.
JONES: You know, that’s a kinky story too. I had two brothers who were master sergeants in the Army. One of them, just died recently, was …
FROKE: … Were they older than you?
JONES: They were older, but I had three remaining brothers and a sister, two of which were in the army – had been in the army. One had went through the Battle of the Bulge and was the first to cross the bridge or a mog and he just went and opened up the death camps in Auschwitz. He just did everything, and then never appreciated till later in life. And my other brother was down in Italy. And they said, “Glenn, whatever you do, do not, do not go to the army. The army is all screwed up. It’s a messed up place. Don’t do it.” But it was 21 months in the Army, 4 years in the Navy. So I decided, “Well, I mean, I’m going to go into the army.” 4 years seemed like a lifetime when you’re that young.
FROKE: Sure, sure.
JONES: So I enlisted in the Army, went down to Pittsburgh to go through the enlistment process and indeed it was a mess because the draft was on and there were just hoards of young people getting drafted. I remember I went down on Thursday, it was Wednesday or Thursday, and they said all you needed was a toothbrush because where you’re going, that’s all you need. So I went down there with my toothbrush and I had a big going away party. So I went down there with my toothbrush. So Wednesday goes by, Thursday, Friday. I finally got all my shots but it really was confusing. And I took the test for OCS paratrooper school with a whole roomful of guys, some of which I talked to. They didn’t seem too bright, others were. I noticed that everybody passed. Everybody passed in the whole room. I started thinking to myself, how could everybody pass? And I was thinking about what my brother said. Then I had to stay over the weekend because we had to get sworn in yet. And they gave me a chit for one meal a day at the Y. These guys don’t really have it put together very well. And the words of my brothers kept going through my mind. I didn’t know what to do though… I’m ready to get sworn in so …. But my name is Jones. That’s always confusing because there’s always 10 of us in any crowd. And so we’re getting … I had my hand up, we’re getting sworn in… and I finally said, “Sergeant.” He said, “Yes.” “My name is Jones. Did the sergeant tell you about me?” He said, “No, get out of line,” because he didn’t want to slow it down. So I got out of line and so it worked pretty good. It gave me a little more time. So I went back through every place I’d been and picked up all my records and walked out the front door as the sergeant said …. Then I really didn’t know what to do then because I could have been in big trouble. So I walked upstairs, I think it was a post office, to where the Navy recruiting office was. There was a guy that I didn’t know at the time, was the chief petty officer sitting at a metal desk there with a polished floor. The thing was quiet and serene, little chair beside the desk. So I walk in with my records, and I’m sure the chief knew exactly what was going on. I said, “Is this where you join the Navy?” He said “Yes. Sit down. What do you have there?” “I have some records. If I joined the Navy would I have to take my shots all over again, and my physical?” “Nah, we can use the same stuff here. This is good.” So I joined the Navy. I ended up in the Navy anyway.
FROKE: What would have prompted you to, I suppose, volunteer for hazardous duty in your first encounter with the Army? You mentioned you were going to join the paratroopers and then with the Navy you certainly didn’t go to anything less hazardous with demolition – underwater demolition. Those things are ….
JONES: I grew up in the woods of western Pennsylvania. I spent all summer outside, in tents, under the stars – all summer and part of the winter. I just thought that could get along in the Army. I could do anything outside. I can survive. But in the Navy it was a whole different experience because it’s water. You couldn’t go to OCS in the Navy because everybody … OCS was just chuck full. In my boot camp in San Diego over half the people had their master’s degree or bachelor’s degree and every single one of them had applied for OCS and there were 5 companies going through when I went through, so 2,500 guys. I’d say half of them had been to college and wanting to get into OCS. I got into OCS. I was really lucky.
FROKE: With your corporate headquarters here you have a flag prominently displayed. It’s not a small flag by any means. Was there some aspect of patriotism that …?
JONES: … Sure …
FROKE: … that you grew up and had a real sense of loyalties.
JONES: …that runs in the family. The family’s sort of super Americans.
FROKE: It sort of runs in cable too, doesn’t it?
JONES: Yes, it really does. Yes. I know my two brothers were in the army and the other two of us were in the Navy.
FROKE: When we speak about you and others within the cable industry as being the classical entrepreneurs, that all plays into it too from a point of view of values of the country.
JONES: Yes, I think so. Johnny Rigas, for instance, is a good friend and just a wonderful, wonderful person.
FROKE: Alan Gerry another one?
JONES: And Alan Gerry in the Marine Corps. Johnny was in the armored division. It’s just everybody pretty much had gone through that process. Magness was …
FROKE: … Later we’ll talk more about that again. I’d like to go back again to Sharon and to Hickory. How old were you when your father died?
JONES: He died two years ago.
FROKE: Just two years ago?
JONES: He was almost 96.
FROKE: Oh, my Lord. He had a long, long life.
JONES: Yes, yes, he did. He carried his own canoe. He was up over 90, and he was complaining to me one day up in Canada. We have a cabin up in Canada along this lake that we’ve been going up there for – ever since he was 25 years old, or 22 years old.
FROKE: It was literally carrying his own canoe. I thought you were just being figurative about it.
JONES: He was complaining he was having trouble portaging around the beaver ponds, but he was 91.
FROKE: Your mother?
JONES: She died quite some time ago. She died before she was 80.
FROKE: Your other brothers – are they still living?
JONES: Yes, except for my oldest brother Bill and, of course, Danny that got killed by the car.
FROKE: What would have prompted the business people of Sharon and Hickory to put together a money package for you to go to Yale?
JONES: You know, I really don’t know.
FROKE: Were you identified as a precocious youngster?
JONES: I don’t think so.
FROKE: Something very special in that small town environment that got their attention?
FROKE: The Boy Scouts probably?
JONES: That probably had a lot to do with it. I was a swimmer and they sort of used that as an excuse. Why should a guy, … you know I wasn’t that good a swimmer, was very at home in the water, taught life-saving, swimming. I just wasn’t alert enough to really pick up on that. It really was a very foolish thing to do to turn it down and not to grasp that opportunity.
FROKE: You got to that later, though, by going to the University of Colorado and getting your law degree.
JONES: Well, I went to the University of Pennsylvania for a couple years after I got out of the Navy, the law school.
FROKE: Was that before Colorado?
JONES: Yes. When I got out of law school I had a lot of experience with explosives and things in the Navy. I ran out of money after my first year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and came out to Denver and tested the explosive components of the Titan I ICBM – never blowing up on the pad at the time but we …
FROKE: This was with the Martin Company?
JONES: Yes. It was just called Martin Company then. I was working out of the old bunkers that General Custer used at Fort Logan. I kept my explosives in there. I tested the launch bolts, the separation system and the strut system of the Titan I, then made enough money to go back to law school. But I was now a year late behind my classmates. So I went back to the University of Pennsylvania Law School and then came back out to Martin Company and became a Senior Industrial Engineer because this group I had worked with had grown, had mushroomed. By the time school started I wasn’t finished so they let me work at night and I went to the University of Colorado during the day. So I finished here. Then I didn’t have enough money to go back to Pennsylvania because I was broke so I stayed out here.
FROKE: Going back a bit and picking up the chronology of your Navy experience, where were you based once you had finished your training with the Navy?
JONES: I finished boot camp and I was going to be a coxswain, an assault boat coxswain taking Marines in the beach. They had sort of a competition in boot camp. It was called American Spirit Honor Medal. Every company selected an honor man and then you competed with other people and there were 25 of these companies in the regiment. Then the winner became the overall American Spirit Honor Medal winner. I lucked into that. And so graduation used to deal with the captain and the admiral and watching all the other guys march by which was interesting. So I was in the out-going units, barracks waiting for sign, waiting for school to start over at the amphibian base. So I was down with my sea bag with a whole bunch of other people getting on LCNs to go over to the phib base to take our coxswain training. This lieutenant came down and started yelling, “Jones, Jones.” There are always a lot of Joneses so I didn’t answer right away. Nobody answered. There were several of us there. So he finally said “Glenn R. Jones” and he read off my serial number, so I said, “Here.” He said, “Come with me.” So I picked up my sea bag and started following. I thought I was really in deep trouble because, you know, I could have been. And I thought I was going straight to the brig or something really bad was going to happen to me here. So I said, “Lieutenant, where are we going?” He said, “You’re going to OCS.” It stunned me. I said, “Why?” He said, “The captain is sending you.” So the captain of the base just reached out and sent me to OCS. That’s how I got to OCS. All those others guys just weren’t as lucky. So then I went to Newport Beach, or I mean Newport, Rhode Island and hung around for a month or two waiting for OCS to start, got out of there, and went to the amphib’s assault corps. I tried to get down to water demolition teams then but my eyes had crashed on me. I sneaked in and memorized the eye chart the day before I had to take the physical. But damned if the very next morning they changed from the old, sort of blind thing. They came in and put in an electronic… So I flunked the eye exam. So I went to the amphibious assault group in the Pacific. It was during the Korean War so everybody got assigned pretty quickly. I ended up on an APA as a boat officer with a wave of LCVPs [landing craft, vehicle, personnel]. But then they lowered the standards for this certain element of underwater swimmers and it was an EOD designated, the EOD team was Explosive Ordnance Disposal which is sort of underwater bomb disposal. So I had been on the ship for about a year, and so I applied – went over to the submarine tender and took decompression test, and they jerked me off that ship right away. And I was back in bomb EOD school, bomb disposal school. It was just kind of a nothing flat because they were running out of volunteers. They took the top 5% of us and sent us to thermo-nuke school, so I made specialist thermo-nukes. But we could do everything from cannon balls to thermo-nukes, but mostly underwater, sort of a special kind of frog man.
FROKE: Demolition, to define it then in the context of your work in the Navy, was to find underwater bombs that had not exploded.
JONES: Unexploded, but we worked with the Rangers. We did clean-ups and stuff like that, you know, wherever it was, including underwater for us. But the rest of the services was up to the water line. But the underwater stuff was neat because we were deep sea divers with hard hats. We used everything, all the sneak devices, all kinds of crazy things that we had for underwater stuff.
FROKE: Did you have any close calls, so to speak, with explosions nearby.
JONES: Well, not so much from the explosions although my submarine doctors told me I was going to lose my hearing very early – I still have it – because of all the explosions. But I have been in trouble a few times, and I didn’t think I was going to get out of it, underwater.
FROKE: How long were you in the Navy?
JONES: 4 ½ years. I ended up in charge of the underwater section of the EOD school in my last tour.
FROKE: That included then a reenlistment period.
JONES: Well, actually it did. I had to extend because I had this time. I had been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and I wanted to go there because that’s where Benjamin Franklin lived, and I was really into Benjamin Franklin and all that. So I had this – by then I was married and had a child – and I had to fill this dead time. I put together two expeditions …
FROKE: … You were married while you were in the Navy?
JONES: While I was in the Navy, yes. I got married one day and then the next ten days I was working with the Rangers down Eglin Air Force Base [Florida] in the swamps.
FROKE: You had a funny honeymoon.
JONES: Yes, it was funny. Then I decided, I’ve got to have something to do this 3 – 4 month period that was gainful employment. So there was a treasure called the DeGroot treasure, which is an old Dutch treasure. It had gone down, if I recall, off the coast of – it’s a long time ago – the coast of New Jersey. It was a quarantined area, a military quarantine which means probably they dump all kinds of bad stuff in there and do bad stuff in there, and they didn’t want you in there. And you don’t want to be there either. The guy that was a famous old diver, his name was Captain Johnson…. I had a good percentage of all the Navy’s master divers working for me at that time, being in charge of the underwater section of the bomb disposal school . They told me about this guy. He’s the guy that would blow ships into the ocean floor that were navigation hazards like in Inchon he did it, and I think San Francisco harbor, Halifax, you know, where there were problems. He’d had the bends several times and he was really all messed up and he couldn’t dive anymore and he was older. I went over to see him because I’d heard he’d know, that he had been down on the DeGroot treasure. He explained to me where it was and what the tides were like underneath the water and everything. But I couldn’t get permission to dive. He claims he had been down. So I never did get permission to do that. Then I put together an expedition to go down on the Andrea Doria which had just sunk. The Washington Post was going to finance it but they backed out at the last minute. So I just re-upped the Navy for another 4 or 5 months to be gainfully employed until I started school.
FROKE: Why did you choose the University of Pennsylvania for your law degree? You mentioned Benjamin Franklin and the historical significance.
JONES: Well, I grew up in Pennsylvania and I greatly admired the University of Pennsylvania, still do. It was the premier place to go. I knew nothing about law, but I thought I might be interested in politics or it might be a good background for business. So I applied and got admitted. That’s why I went there.
FROKE: Your demolition work led to your first job then to Denver.
JONES: Everybody used to laugh at me. They said, “That’s great, Glenn. You’ve got a nice fall-back profession that’s in great demand,” – at that time. Now it is. These forces got a guy like …
FROKE: This was the time when nuclear bomb development …
JONES: Oh, yes, it was wild. It really was. We were on the ragged edge of everything. We had acquired, one way or another – I won’t get into that – materials from your friends and enemies because you have to know how this stuff is put together if you’re going to take it apart. The rest of the world did the same thing, pretty much. I knew that they were building an ICBM in Denver, basically because of my work. I was very good. I could write my initials in 8″ armor plate with safe charges. I knew how to do that. When I ran out of money in law school I said, “I’ll go out to Denver because I’ve got to get a job that I can earn enough money to finish law school.” So I came out to Denver. I can remember going out to the employment agency on Logan Street. I think it’s still there. This guy is sitting at a metal desk and the guy is behind it and I’m in front so it’s my turn. I asked a few questions. He said, “Well, Mr. Jones, is there anything you can do particularly well?” I said, “Well, yes, I’m a deep sea diver.” He just lost it. He walked out and I could see guys walking. I knew I had said the wrong thing. It was just a stupid thing for me to say. The guys that walked by, look in and snicker. Finally he had his composure back again, he came in and sat down and looked at me. “Well, Mr. Jones, I have to tell you we have hardly any calls at all for deep sea divers here in Denver.” I knew I had said the wrong thing. I said I had worked in a steel mill. He said, “Oh, okay.” Well, they fabricate this missile … because nobody knew … I knew what they needed, but I had to get into the factory.
FROKE: In order to get the right words.
JONES: So I got a job because I was in the steel mill and they fabricate the missile body and so forth, doing that. First off, I started poking around and I found the lab. And the guy who was running the lab, I introduced myself, and he looked at me and he said nothing for about a whole minute. He said, “I’ve heard about you kind of people. I’ve been looking, and I just haven’t been able to find any, you see.” He just hired me into the lab right away and raised my salary and sort of put me in charge of the test sight which was then being run by a guy that blew the holes through the mountain for Route 6 tunnels. He was a different kind of, sort of thing.
FROKE: Were you still playing piano at that time? You obviously went on to become a fairly skilled pianist even though you were …
JONES: … No, I’ve always …
FROKE: … your starred in you first performance when you were back in _____
JONES: I always thought I wanted to be a musician, but I could never afford it.
FROKE: In your office here at your corporate headquarters, my recollection is that you have two grand pianos in the office.
JONES: Right. I do like to play but, as I say, I play by ear so I can’t play with anybody because I’m two notes behind or two notes ahead – not like our friend Mr. Crosby who really knows what he’s doing and is very skilled and is a terrific piano player. I’m not that good. If I can hear I can usually play it.
FROKE: Whether it is classical or popular?
JONES: Well, not so much classical. I’m intending to get into the piano but I just haven’t had time.
FROKE: From the Martin Company here in Denver, you had the spring board, then, to cable development and you met Carl Williams who was working at that time with Bill Daniels. Was that your first cable contact?
JONES: I had never heard of it before. I was talking to Carl about this, and we think it was maybe 1957 or something. It was a long time ago in any event …
FROKE: You had your law degree by then.
JONES: … yes, and we were both living – we had apartments in this sort of big old house that had been chopped up for apartments. We were both out hanging laundry in the back yard so we met over the clothes line. We just sort of hit it off. Carl’s a terrific guy, an easy guy to get to know, friendly, engaging. We just became friends. Then I finished law school here and then got a job at the law firm. I just decided, after about 9 months, I’d start my own. So I left. But then I found myself officing in a donut and coffee place on the corner of Holly and Florida. All you need is a yellow pad and a pencil basically because you’re dealing with ideas and things like that. But it got kind of embarrassing to have clients come in there. Plus the guy that owned the coffee shop was sort of getting tired of all this. Carl kept pinging on me …
FROKE: Your office was at the donut counter then. Is that right?
JONES: Well, it wasn’t at the counter. They had tables there.
FROKE: One of the booths?
JONES: One of the various tables, right. It wasn’t a very big place so I couldn’t hide real well. You can only eat so many donuts. Carl kept pinging on me. “Look, we just moved down from Wyoming and we have this new office building. We’ve got … why don’t you come in and we’ll give you a free office space and you can keep track of our corporations in other states.” So finally I said okay. So I moved in. He was Bill’s partner. I ended up being a deal lawyer there.
FROKE: So you handled their legal practice then.
JONES: Some of it. At first I just … my other client was a Southern Baptist Church in 11 states. My salary actually doubled when I went out on my own, even out of that donut shop. I had two principal clients. I had a lot of clients the way it evolved, but two principal ones. One was the Southern Baptist Church who were just delightful people and the cable industry. When you’d close a deal, whoever was on the other side of the deal would hire you for their next deal. So it was like a virus. You just ended up representing everybody.
FROKE: Was the legal work with Daniels at that time primarily franchising or was it brokering?
JONES: He was a broker in those days basically. Marty Malarkey was already in the business. I remember Marty, and he was sort of the authority. Bill used to call Marty -who was a fabulous guy. I just knew him by phone. I hadn’t met him at that time, just talked to him on the phone. Bill is very adept at putting together deals and he’s the world’s best salesman basically. He was an insurance salesman basically.
FROKE: There’s a certain amount of carry-over.
JONES: Yes, he really knew how to close. He was terrific on the phone.
FROKE: Do you recall any of the cable projects that you worked on when you were doing legal work for Daniels at that time?
JONES: Oh, yes. Lot of them. Oodles and oodles of them. They were all fun. I used to find myself watching the sun come up in the morning, just putting deals together all night and have papers all over the building. Before anybody would come to work I had to have them all together in piles. It was pretty messy at night, in the early morning hours. They were each interesting and intriguing. I remember one of them – I think it was down in Farmington, New Mexico – which was maybe the first deal I did. The economy finance, which was a real misnomer, was the financing entity for the buyer. I went down to close the deal and I remember this guy sitting there, _____ , bib overalls on, just a real country guy. I think I gave him a check for something like a half a million dollars – looking at this guy and gave him a check for a half million dollars.
FROKE: That’s a lot of money at that time.
JONES: Yes. Really. What’s happening here? So then I talked to him afterwards, and I asked him what he was going to do. He said, “Well, I think I’ll go build me another cable system someplace else.” So it started to get my attention. But there were just a lot of deals, everyone of them wishing they’d …
FROKE: … Did you get involved with any of the regulatory work?
JONES: In those days – yes, at the city council level but – in those days the FCC disclaimed any regulatory authority, in the early days. It wasn’t until LBJ got threatened in Austin with his television station that we got regulation. I think he was in charge of the oversight committee, overseeing FCC at the time. Anyway, they were intriguing …
FROKE: What did you do with the Southern Baptists? Did they have that much legal work?
JONES: You know, the way I got involved with them is a lawyer down in Pueblo told them that they could issue bonds, and it was okay. They didn’t need FCC approval because there was exemption, as I recall, in their bonds. So they did. And they did so in good spirit. Their lawyer told them they could do this so …. But what ended up was these bonds are guaranteed by the Securities and Exchange Commission or something… bad language and this had been going on for several years and when the FCC got a hold of one, they had sold millions of bonds. They had apoplexy. So we had to reorganize the whole structure, sort of like an S&L, keep the bond company separate.
FROKE: So that involved travel across the country too.
JONES: An eleven state area because we would lend – we’d build a lot of churches – to congregations just starting up. I spent a lot of time with them doing that. They were incredible. They were blessed and overseen by somebody. They had special things going for them. Every once in awhile one of the loans would go bad and the way the Southern Baptist Church works, they’re all autonomous. So nobody could… I mean you can’t hire and fire a Southern Baptist preacher, only the congregation can do that.
FROKE: Were you active in religion, a church experience?
FROKE: So the Baptists, the Church of God and so on did not necessarily ….
JONES: … Well, they jokingly called me the bishop because I would go fire the preachers that had gone astray. I would arrange for their departure if they turned strange, if they sort of dispersed …. The congregation started taking control of the assets themselves. Then somebody had to go take care of that. I would go do that. We sort of had a routine down for that – get them to resign, interesting process.
FROKE: Earlier, as I continue to talk a bit about your family, earlier you had mentioned while you were in the Navy you were married and you had one child. You were divorced from your wife?
JONES: No. About 23 years later. No. We separated when I came out to Denver.
FROKE: I see.
JONES: Then we got back together and stayed together for a long, long time.
FROKE: Then you were divorced then at a later time.
FROKE: Your child, are you close to your child?
JONES: Very. I have three. We had three children. I am very, very close to all three of them.
FROKE: Do they live in the Denver area?
JONES: One of them does. One of them lives in Dominique, in Florida, typically. But she stays with us during the hurricane season. My other daughter lives in Manhattan and she has two little boys. And my son lives out here.
FROKE: Is your son involved in cable?
JONES: No, none of them have any particular interest in the business.
FROKE: So they went their own way in terms of their careers.
JONES: Yes, and it’s interesting. It would have been nice if there was more interest but you can’t impose your dreams on somebody else. And I think that they just saw how hard it was and how hard I had to work, and they didn’t want to do that. I set really a bad example, I think is probably why. Johnny’s done a great job, John and Chuck – their kids … And Ralph Roberts, you know Brian just loves the business.
FROKE: There’s quite a bit of family …
JONES: … There is. And those are companies that sort of, if you notice the landscape out there, have stayed together because they have a second generation that can … and these assets need another generation to maximize them. But if you don’t have it, you don’t have it, and I didn’t have it.
FROKE: Well, you certainly had lots of other things. Let’s go on then and move into your early days of cable. You certainly got a touch of it when you were working with Daniels. And then you decided to move into politics and you ran for congress.
FROKE: Was that another one of your expressions of getting involved in public type activities.
JONES: Well, in a way, maybe.
FROKE: Were you seriously considering a political career?
JONES: Well, I was angry because my client, the Southern Baptist Church – we were trying to build senior homes which the government had espoused and encouraged everybody to do, but had, it seemed, changed their mind without telling anybody. They were spending thousands of dollars on architects and everything, and they could never get anything approved with the FHA or HHFA. So I finally – we spent so much time with just needless, senseless, bureaucratic red-tape – so finally, I remember I talked to the authority in this area at that time for this project. His name was Mr. Shous, was his name. I got through a few secretaries and got him and was talking to him. “Well, Mr. Shous, what do you recommend that we do?” And this is the authority. He says, “Well, my direction has been sufficiently vague so that …” and then he rambled on. I had no idea what the hell he was trying to say. So it just angered me. And about that time I read Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative”. So I asked myself , “Are you going to – government shouldn’t be like this – are you going to put up with this or are you going to go back and change everything?” So I said, “I’ll go back and change everything.” So I decided to run for Congress. It was probably a big mistake because I did that for nine months. I just ran for Congress. First I had to get the nomination. I hadn’t been involved in politics before, and I was kind of brittle. You learn a lot. It was ugly, but I got the nomination. But I killed a lot of people in the stands in terms of people I needed to support my candidacy in the party, in the organized party. I didn’t’ run for dog catcher, or state senator. I was running for Congress, just out of the chute. I was in my early 30’s and I hadn’t lived here long time, to speak of. It was a 7-term incumbent that I was running against who was very imbedded. I got the nomination. Sort of at the end of the election, everybody sort of got with it and really were supporting me – in fact asked me to … they offered me a safe senate seat, state senate seat. But I turned it down because I was broke. I was absolutely, financially and physically devastated. So that sort of ended my political career. I could tell, number one, I really didn’t want to do that. And two, that I couldn’t afford to do it. I had to survive. So I ended up going … I couldn’t get a job that would pay me enough money to pay my bills, so I was driving home one night – and I moved to a bigger house because I had some equity in my house and I had all the sort of licenses known to men. I had a real estate broker’s license, and I was a lawyer. So I had built up this equity in the house I was living in, and I sold that and got the equity out and used some of it as a down payment for a bigger house out in a real nice neighborhood.
FROKE: You had three children at that time.
JONES: Yes. I used … but I was a broker so I got more than I paid down for a brokerage fee from the savings and loan that was trying to unload this house because the real estate market was, you know, in the pits, the real estate market it was, you know, in the pits. So I ended up with a little lump sum of money which I would eat through pretty rapidly if I wasn’t working. So I decided – I was driving home one night, and it was … one afternoon, it was a beautiful fall afternoon, snow was on the second range, just a pure white – and I decided well, the silver kings went up in the mountains and struck it rich. They worked. Maybe I could do the same thing somehow. So that’s what I did. I went up in the mountains with my Volkswagen and I lived up in the mountains in my Volkswagen and I did everything. I saved lots from the shylocks, you know, subdivisions, and I merged water districts. Most of the lawyers up there were alcoholics at the time. They wouldn’t show up for trials sometimes. I remember the judge in Leadville. He wasn’t even a lawyer. I mean he had a set of law books still in the wax paper by his desk where he held court. The assistant district attorney was a, well let’s say he liked his booze, and sometimes he would show up and sometimes he wouldn’t. You couldn’t get the judge to do anything and every time you came to an issue of law, he read off all these cases like you do if you’re a lawyer and you have a brief and everything. But he would just turn to this other guy, this assistant district attorney, and say, “Is that right?” It was incredible. Anyway, I could make enough money. I had a paper route I had started in Georgetown, and I had a friend who owned a restaurant there – the Alpine Inn. He would let me use a table. I could have coffee at the table all morning so on Wednesday mornings I was in Georgetown if anybody wanted to do any legal thing or real estate thing. They would come into town and down from Empire or wherever and come to my table. And we would conduct business. In the meantime I’d be having coffee with the owner. Then I was trying to buy a cable system but I didn’t have any money … so I could buy for nothing…
FROKE: You had cable on your mind then.
JONES: Oh yes. Leadville had a big cable system in my vernacular at that time. But it was owned by people I couldn’t buy from. But anyway, so then I’d go up to Breckenridge and I would go to Breckenridge and there was a subdivision that had been in trouble there. I could work up there laying out lots and helping draw up the subdivision and building the duplexes and things like that. Then when nightfall came I would at some point in time typically, not always – sometimes I could sleep in one of the unfinished condos or something like that – but typically I would go from there up to Leadville. I’d go to the Silver Queen and get a hamburger or some nuts, maybe 10, 11 o’clock at night. Then I’d go sleep in my Volkswagen because the seat went down. Then I’d get up in the morning and go down over Battle Mountain to Minturn where I had another friend who was a rancher, Jack Olson. I’d stop and have coffee with him and he had ranches all over the place. We ended up making a ski area out of his ranch there because Vail wouldn’t let us sell any of their real estate because it was a sort of a closed shop there. So we had to create our own – which they eventually bought and closed down.
FROKE: That was in the very, very early years …
JONES: …Yes, it was in the 60’s.
FROKE: …choice development in Breckenridge and that whole area.
JONES: Oh, yes, you could sleep on the main street of Breckenridge all night long and never worry about getting run over. I have a million stories. It was a great place. These people were characters that lived up there too.
FROKE: Did you drive back and forth in your Volkswagen to Denver then to …
JONES: … No, I’d stay up there for typically a week, maybe two weeks.
FROKE: Then come down for a weekend?
JONES: Something like that, yes. Then I ended up saving the Four Seasons subdivision in Leadville from the shylocks. The guy that owned it gave me 20 lots. So then I had my own street because with the lots on both sides I could park my Volkswagen there, go … because I owned the street. Then I would meet the miners at 11:30. They’d come out of the Climax molybdenum mine – these electric trains. And I’d meet them up there and they were living in these tenth mountain division barracks that they’d moved into town from Camp Hill. They would take me home with them because they all wanted to build these Boise Cascade prefab houses but they had to have a lot. And I would sell them a lot and not take a first mortgage and nobody else would do that. They were wonderful people. They would give me a second mortgage or just even a note. They all paid me. I didn’t worry about that. So we’d go home and talk about their dream of prefab house and they’d get tired, and I’d get tired. So I’d go to my street and go to sleep.
FROKE: Is there still a Jones Street there?
JONES: Oh, I never named it. Yes, it’s still up there.
FROKE: You just … it’s still there.
JONES: Just roughed in. But the bulldozer DA cat scraped it out. I think I still have …
FROKE: … Would you sell me a lot up there?
JONES: Sure, I think I still have some.
FROKE: You might have one up there.
JONES: No, I’m sure I do – 4 or 5.
FROKE: How did you move ahead in Georgetown, then to acquire the cable system there which was your first start.
JONES: Yes, well, the guy that ran the cable system – his name was Mel Reichwine – he owned the post office building and he was an electrician and a plumber and owned the cable system. As a consequence, his phone was always ringing. You could send Morse code on his phone in his house. It was just ringing all the time. The cable system was just in terrible shape, and it was going to get its license revoked. In those days you really had to be bad to get your license revoked. But he hated lawyers, and Eddy knew I was a lawyer. So what I would do is, I’d get a couple cups of coffee at the Alpine Inn in the wintertime, and then I’d drive around town and find his green panel truck – maybe down the basement, cranking on a pipe or something – and I’d go down and give him a cup of coffee and we’d sit there and talk about the cable system. I did that enough so he finally thought I was okay even if I was a lawyer. He had, which I won’t get into, he had good reason to not like lawyers. Finally we cut a deal. I bought that system for $12,000, $1,000 down in cash and unsecured note back because everybody knew it had to be fixed up because it had 220 volts, I think, going straight up – 220 or 440, I forget what it was – up 8,000 feet, open line, you know, to the top of the mountain and then it came down and went into a shack at the mine where a hermit lived. There was a dirt floor and everything. I used to give the hermit a bottle of Chavez Regal every Christmas and he thought I was the greatest guy. He was kind of on the sauce and he lived … I don’t know how he … he was really a nice man, but…. So that’s where sort of the headend was. Then it went from there out to a tree. Then it went to a lilac bush. Then it went to the eaves of the first house. It went all around. It didn’t touch a single telephone pole anyplace. And it was falling down. And not only that, it was killing things. It was killing deer, it was killing rabbits and squirrels, but no people. It was the headend line and it was in the wintertime. There was 8′ of snow. It’s frozen. You couldn’t do anything. So I had to sweat out until summer came to do anything with it. And I didn’t have any money anyway. I don’t know what I would have done. What happened was I had ten days to raise $1,000 and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have $1,000. No way I could get $1,000 so I … The Southern Baptists preachers helped me get this Volkswagen cheap because they … through their missionaries in Germany … that I was living in.
FROKE: So that was part of your salary that came from them?
JONES: Yes. I had equity in the Volkswagen. We used to have industrial banks in those days in Colorado, just one step below shylocking. So I went to the industrial bank and got a – refinanced it – and got a $400 proceeds check. I took it up and gave it to Mel and I said “Mel, I just couldn’t raise the $1,000 but I have $400 and I will give you another note for the $600 and here’s a note for the $11,000.” He said, “No, you don’t have to give me another note.” He said, “Glenn, I trust you.” I said, “Mel, I’ll never miss a payment.” And I never did and he trusted me. So I gave him the check for $400.
FROKE: And you took over ownership at that time then.
JONES: Yes. And he gave me – I prepared everything because I was my own loan account lawyer, and I had a half-page bill of sale so it wouldn’t look too imposing – so he gave me that and he signed that, and he gave me his account book which was a half-size, three-hole notebook with sort of padded fake leather and the pages falling down in. So I took it down to Alpine Inn to my table. It was really a snowy day, and I was so happy I was yodeling all the way down there because now I was in the cable business.
FROKE: You were now a cable operator.
JONES: Yes, well he had 100 subscribers, none, none of which had paid him for many, many months. But, you know, hey. So I went down there. It was just like I thought. Everybody owed him money, and he’s afraid to collect because the signal was terrible. So I went down and I rented a small test set and went up and knocked on every door and went all around town and collected money. And the place was a museum. I mean, I would – because on a little set your signal looks real good, you don’t see all the ghosts and everything. So I hooked up the cable system to the back of the set and said, “Look, the signal looks fine. It’s your television set.” And it really was their television sets too because, to some extent you could turn the dial and it would spin like a top. It didn’t even click, you know what I mean. It just … they were ancient, ancient television sets even then. So it was a classic deal. Mel built the cable system and sell them television sets. He sold them television sets. So I think everybody in town probably got a new television set. Anyway, I collected $600 and gave it to Mel and that’s how I got into business. Then went, about a month later, I went down to … because I didn’t have any equipment, I didn’t know how to take care of this thing or anything …. I was burning tires trying to get the ice to melt and it wouldn’t even melt. I needed to put in one telephone pole and I could get 10 more subscribers and I couldn’t even put in telephone so it was frozen solid. It was like iron. So I went down to Idaho Springs which is 11 miles towards Denver. The guy that ran that – I found him and his name was Woody Woodley. He was – turned out to be an ex-Navy guy – he ran the RCA retail outlet in Idaho Springs. So I walked in and his wife, Hazel, was in the front …
FROKE: So he had a technical background.
JONES: Yes, … was in the front of the store and Woody was in the back fixing television sets and so I introduced myself to Hazel and asked if her husband was around. “He’s in the back room fixing television sets. Go on back.” So I went back there and Woody was back there and he said, “Hey, you want a cup of coffee?” I said, “Sure.” So had these white mugs of coffee and we started chatting and he turned out to be an ex-Navy guy. He said, “Say, I heard you bought the cable system up in Georgetown.” I said, “That’s right.” He said, “I heard that you don’t have a truck, you don’t have a strength meter, you don’t have anybody to take care of it or anything.” I said, “That’s right.” He said, “Well, how are you going to do that?” So I said, “Well, I thought that I would buy your cable system, but I have to tell you up front I don’t have any money.” He laughed. He thought that was the funniest thing he’s heard for a long time. He said, “Well, how you going to do that?” I said, “Well, Woody, I’m going to pay you too much for it and I’m going to give you a note and I’m never going to miss a payment.” And he laughed. And he said, “Well, you don’t have anybody to take care of that one, how the hell are you going to take care of two of them?” I said, “Well, I thought maybe you could do that. You could take care of both of them. You have a truck and you have a strength meter.” He said, “Yes, I do but I’m running this business here.” I said, “Yes, but I thought you could do it, and I could pay so much for each hookup or so much a month or something. We could work all that out.” He laughed. He just thought he was having a funny day. By the end of the day he agreed. So I forget what I paid for that, but that was all … it was no cash because I didn’t have any cash … I’d spent my $400 up in Georgetown.
FROKE: But now you had two cable systems.
JONES: Yes, he had 100 subscribers too, and his subscribers were paying him, but it was still old, archaic stuff. It wasn’t even in the town proper. His cable system was up Soda Creek Gulch and Chicago Creek Gulch. They totaled 100 subscribers in all. Later we got a franchise for the town, built the town.
FROKE: Was he something of a partner with you then, would you say that?
FROKE: He was an employee then.
JONES: Yes, he became an employee. Finally he closed down his shop and came with me full time, stayed with me for years and years.
FROKE: As technical director?
JONES: Yes. We used to have … I had him on my board … because the name of my company was Cowpoke Cable Company at that time.
FROKE: Was that a carry over of Denver as cow town?
JONES: Well, I didn’t want appear like I was overbearing or something.
FROKE: Oh, okay. All right.
JONES: I knew I had to deal with little towns so I figured Cowpoke Cable Company’s not going to …
FROKE: …Scare anybody away.
JONES: You know I’m not from New York or Los Angeles. But what happened was, when we applied for the franchise for Idaho Springs, they didn’t particularly know what cable was.
FROKE: You were moving into a larger community.
JONES: Yes, because Chicago Creek and Soda Creek were sort of outskirts of Idaho Springs. What happened was, they said, “Yes, sure…you want to do … you’re sure …we don’t pay anything…you’re going to pay us?” “Right.” So after the meeting, the guy that was sort of running the town at that time was the city clerk. The city clerk came up to me and said, “Mr. Jones, look, we’ll probably give you the franchise but could you change the name of the company? I mean we can’t, you know, …” I said, “Absolutely, I can change the name of the company.” He said, “Well, you’ve just gotta change the name of the company and come back in two weeks and we’ll do a final reading.” So I draw … I went up to Leadville – did my tour and ended up in Leadville. It was about 11 o’clock at night and the Silver Queen was getting ready to close down and I was having a cup of coffee and a hamburger before I went to my street to go to bed. The waitress came over and I was looking over some books of some kind. And she said, “What do you do anyway? I see you in here all the time” And I said, “I’m in cable television business.” She said, “Oh, what’s the name of your company?” I said, “Cowpoke Cable Company.” She broke out laughing. I said “Well, if the waitress in Leadville thinks that’s a funny name I really need to do something about this name.” Anyway, I forgot all about it and so I went down – it’s two weeks later – I’m driving into town in my Volkswagen, go full – you, know, petal to the metal – and all of a sudden I remember I told them I’d change the name of the company. What name, what name? I’m driving into town and there’s a mine tipple there and had a big sign on it – Silver King Mines. So I picked it up. And the guy … I parked the car, walked in and this guy met me at the door and he said, “Mr. Jones, have you changed the name?” And I said, “Yes.” And even then I didn’t know what the hell the name was going to be. He said, “Well, what is the new name?” And I just blurted out “Silver King Cable Company.” “Oh, that’s fine.” Silver King Mine was a big …. So it became Silver King Cable Company. But I to change it up because one of my first employees was a wonderful, charming lady that had escaped from Czechoslovakia, and she had run a flower factory. She was very good with numbers and so I hired her. But she had trouble …
FROKE: … So she became your business manager then?
JONES: She became one of my chief financial officers. …but she had trouble with the language. I noticed I was getting mail to Silver Kink Cable Company. On Saturday, I used work on Saturday, and somebody called for Silver Kink Cable Company, …
FROKE: … It wasn’t coming out right.
JONES: …and I found out that that’s the way she said Silver King. I listened to her ‘Silver Kink Cable Company’. So everybody thought … So I had to change the name. So I changed to Jones Intercable. That’s the derivation of the name.
FROKE: What was her last name and what was her full name by the way?
JONES: Hannah Rokussek
FROKE: Could you spell the last name?
JONES: R-o-k-u-s-s-e-c. She retired … s-e-k … gee, I’ve seen it a million times I just can’t … I could write it down but I don’t think I can …
FROKE: When we get the transcript of your history, perhaps you’d just write it in.
JONES: Yes. She was a wonderful woman. She was really a major part …
FROKE: … In the last …
JONES: … she retired. She retired to Leadville.. She was living up in Leadville.
FROKE: And the last name of Mel, the Georgetown …
JONES: Reichwine. R-e-i-c-h-w-i-n-e. He’s still alive. He’s living up in Georgetown still.
FROKE: I see. What a marvelous set of stories. What did you do with your Volkswagen?
JONES: You know I finally sold it. I can’t remember exactly when or how much I got for it. I think I got involved in a real estate business. The paper route kept deepening so that I had more to do in each community, and I ended up in the real estate business in Vail. I bought Carl Williams’ old … he had some custom-made French provincial furniture which was really garish. It looked like it belonged in a bordello. I bought it from him for $500 and I moved it up to Vail because it kind of fit in there. And then I moved it around. It did travel with me a lot of places. It was in my office furniture. What I would do is when I left Jack’s place in Minturn I would drive into Vail. I would get out of my Sears Roebuck boots and levis and stuff on and I would change into ski clothes and then I would go to sleep under this conference table for an hour or so. At 9:00 I’d open up the real estate office in ski clothes. People like Tom Watson would walk in, or all kinds of people because they were in Vail. The name of my company was Vail Realty because Vail hadn’t nailed down. They had Vail everything else but they didn’t have Vail Realty. Everybody thought it was … you know, a lot of the people came to call it my deal. They didn’t think that long but you know, at any rate it ….
FROKE: In those very early days of cable at Georgetown and Idaho Springs, was your profit margin adequate to take care of expenses or did you have to borrow to…?
JONES: … Yes, I had to borrow because I had to …
FROKE: … You now had equity though. Oh, no, not really because they really did not recognize this …
JONES: What happened was people would call me, people would call me, ex-clients would call me. And I kept raising my rates because I didn’t want to practice law anymore. I ended up charging $350 an hour. I say, “Look I don’t do this anymore.” They’d say, “Well, Glenn, you gotta do this.” “But it’s gonna cost you $350 an hour.” So they’d say okay So they’d send me off to Los Angeles or someplace and I’d have to go down to Denver and put on a blue suit and go to Los Angeles and monitor franchise deals or whatever. And then I’d take that money and I had a pool. And I had the Factbook and I would isolate cable systems in the Factbook where it had multiple owners, looked like there could be some problems with the ownership. And I had these plastic maps – you’ve seen these topographical plastic maps that you can buy in stationery stores. And I had one of California, for instance, and you could see where the town was so I knew where the transmitters were and if it looked like there was a mountain between a transmitter and a town and you got multiple ownership and, you know, or especially remote ownership or something like that. Then what I would do, I would go, for instance, to San Francisco. Then I would take the puddle jumper over to Redding or someplace because they would pass over where I wanted to see the cable system. And I would have the Factbook …
FROKE: …So you were thinking about expansion then?
JONES: … Yes. …and I had a pair of field glasses and I had my plastic map and the Factbook and a cup of coffee and I would ask the pilot or the stewardess which side of the plane this was going to be on. I be sure I got there early so I’d get a window seat. And I’d set up all my stuff and would fly over and look down and see what I thought. If it looked like a winner, then I’d rent a car and I’d drive there, and I’d start talking to people, see if I could buy the cable system. I bought Lake County, California that way. The Republican chairman of Napa County owned it. He’s an absentee owner, and it wasn’t feeling right to him up there, for good reason, which I won’t get into. So he sold it to me for $50,000 down and a check for … and a note for $210,000. So I had it all arranged with Stromberg Carlson. But it was about Christmas time and I was calling back there and this deal had to close and I was talking to janitors because everybody was on vacation or they weren’t there. So I lost the deal and I had to go back and resuscitate it which they charged me more interest which I agreed to pay. Then I came back to Denver, and I used to borrow money at various banks, but I could never borrow more than $5,000 at any one bank. So what I would do was, I’d go – none of them asked me if I borrowed from other banks – so I had about 5 banks that I would go to and I’d borrow $5,000. That’s how I stayed alive. Then Bob Tynan, who is my original partner, I guess, also knew the banks. And this company had some money in the bank. So Bob borrowed $20,000 or something like that from various banks and I borrowed 20 or 25 or something like that. But they were … the long-term debt was 90 days and the short-term debt was 30 days for me. So I went out and closed the deal, drained out the bank there, came back and paid back this short-term debt and went back out and went around collected money in the rain. It was raining season.
FROKE: I’m going to interrupt this at this point and schedule another recording session with you and we’ll go back and pick up some of this financial strategy that you’re discussing now because one of the major contributions that you also brought to the cable industry was the imaginative financing that you developed through the years, borrowing in part some of the ideas from the mineral …
JONES: … Right.
FROKE: So, we’ll get into some of those financial strategies at our next conversation and then move on to the phenomenal growth of your system on a nationwide basis, some of your concepts that were built into that operational system, and then also move very, very heavily into the discussion of education. Thank you very much, Glenn, and we’ll pick up this conversation in a second recording session.
JONES: Okay Marlowe. You said this is liable to take longer than we thought it was going to take.
FROKE: We might have to come back for still another one.
JONES: Well, maybe we could generalize more or something.
FROKE: Okay. We’ll start tomorrow at 1:30.
FROKE: And then if you’re up to it, we could run beyond 2 hours tomorrow.
JONES: All right. Or if you’re up to it.
FROKE: This is Part 2 of an Oral and Video History with Glenn R. Jones, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Jones Intercable Inc. and the newer organization which he has founded called JonesKnowledge.com. In the Part 1 section of the Oral and Video History, we had an opportunity to, Glenn, talk about your early life and your education and some of your work experiences before you moved into cable and we gathered one of the best stories in cable with your experience at Georgetown and Idaho Springs, Colorado. I did not ask you the question, though, did you ever get around to putting up some poles in Georgetown to rebuild the system totally or how did you move ahead to make that a contemporary cable system?
JONES: Well, I had … you know, when they built the Nautilus submarine, they developed a thing called pert charts. So what I did was, after I bought the California system, everything had to be rebuilt, it wasn’t just Georgetown, everything had to be …
FROKE: You were telling about the lilac bushes and the cave – your master control was in the cave.
JONES: Idaho Springs was better in terms of, in a sense, but I don’t think it was on any telephone poles either. In California, the system was really pretty much a junk system and had to be rebuilt as well in Lake County. So what I did was – I decided I would order about $140,000 worth of equipment, and I was relying that people would just send it to me because I was not everybody’s lawyer in the cable business but a lot of people’s lawyer. People were used to seeing me in that fashion and would do whatever I would ask them to do. I thought they would do that – the suppliers. So what I did, I put together this pert chart that would show critical pass if something …
FROKE: All of those things that had to be done.
JONES: … didn’t happen on time and all these events for the whole operation, Georgetown, Idaho Springs and Lake County. Then I went to the Colorado National Bank to get a loan, see if they would lend me money. The Denver banks were really incredibly naïve in terms of the cable business. They missed the whole industry. They would lend on the worst real estate deal – if you had cattle or if you had some oil wells. But you couldn’t borrow any money for cable, regardless of how good the deal was because they didn’t know if …
FROKE: How it functioned or operate.
JONES: … No. If the deal went bad, they’d have to roll up all that cable and put in their warehouse. They just didn’t understand the concept. So finally the Colorado National Bank, basically because of the relationship with them and the real estate operation up in Vail, I’d come over the mountain in my Volkswagen at 2:00 in the morning, maybe once a week, with money – there was no bank up there – and so I would have the money and I would put it in pillow cases. So I had to have a couple pillow cases full of money, and I’d walk into the bank. They called them my Polish briefcases. Anyway, they were used to dealing with me. So they gave me what they called a character loan for $10,000. It was the first $10,000 loan I’d ever had. It was phenomenal. So I took that $10,000 and sort of covered my tracks while I did the rest of it. I ordered $140,000 worth of equipment and, sure enough, everybody just sent it to me – amplifiers, and everything. By that time I had a franchise in Idaho Springs. Then I started working my pert chart. The first bubble was financing. Then I ran into a problem in Idaho Springs. The telephone company decided they wanted to do a lease back, Mountain States Bell, at that time. And lease backs were a disaster. There was one down in Manitou Springs. They wanted to lease me 5 channels and they would own the rest of the system for all the futures. I would pay for the whole plant, and I would be at their beck and call and mercy doing a good job of maintaining my plant, which they’d have no interest in doing anyway.
JONES: So what I did, I created a critical path for me on my pert chart. I ordered a whole mess of 25 foot creosote-treated telephone poles and had them delivered to Idaho Springs. My franchise allowed me to set my own poles. I started setting my own poles across the street from the telephone company poles in Idaho Springs and started building my cable system. I happened to notice that the Mountain States Bell was having a rate hearing in Denver to raise the rates. I remember I was really sick – I had the flu. I went down to the rate hearings and asked to be heard, and they let me speak. So I explained to them how Mountain Bell was violating the anti-trust laws and operating restrainer trade and everything up in …with this pole contract or denial and the pole lease-back concept. And the operating Vice President of Mountain Bell was aghast that I was there and saying all this in the rate hearings. He stood up and said, “Where is this taking place?” And I said, “In Idaho Springs.” In two days I had a pole contract in Idaho Springs so I stopped setting my own poles. But they’re still up there. If you drive, there’s poles on both sides of the street. So that cured that bubble, that critical path. I finished everything just like I did the submarine – on time. So that’s how I got basically financed and into business.
FROKE: While you don’t own the operating system in Georgetown today, I assume that it is still functioning?
FROKE: It’s still operating?
JONES: It is.
FROKE: Do you ever go back and just look at the system and see what the customers are doing?
JONES: I have a townhouse up in Beaver Creek so I …
FROKE: So get by there quite …
JONES: … drive past it all the time and Idaho Springs. I always say to Diane, when I’m driving by, “No antennas in Idaho Springs.” Once in awhile there is an antenna ..
FROKE: Satisfied customer …
JONES: …”who is that guy with the…”
FROKE: Are you tempted to take your monitor into some of the houses?
JONES: No, no. That was a real drill because they were stealing signals. One of these little Victorian houses, the whole front of this house, the whole front inside, was covered with aluminum foil. And he was picking up radio signals. Even that hadn’t worked for him. But it was funny to sit in his living room looking at all that aluminum foil.
FROKE: You were talking about the difficulty of getting early financing to get a cable system operating, to cover the expenses of operations of cable. And that pattern that obviously was a national pattern because the business was new, and the financial institutions across the country had that same problem of really not understanding what was the equity of the subscriber fee that came in on a regular basis. In the earlier oral histories that I’ve done, I’ve run across two different stories. One is that Paul Kagen, who came out of a brokerage firm in New York and then became a principal writer in the cable business and also then going on to do his research reports, that he also was instrumental in getting the financial institutions to appreciate what cable could do. And then Bill Daniels …
JONES: … More than anybody else – Paul was.
FROKE: Bill Daniels is also identified as a …
JONES: … Well to some extent.
FROKE: What are your recollections of the national picture at that time in terms of getting a turn-around with the financial institutions? You, undoubtedly, were beginning to associate with the other cable operators across the country.
JONES: Well, I had seen it because I represented a lot of the cable companies as a lawyer and dealt with those loan instruments and all that.
FROKE: So you were working with them and talking with them also about the necessity of converting the financial institutions to your point of view.
JONES: Right. And Paul, clearly you’d have to say, was instrument in all that. He supplied the analytical support. He understood that business, and he supplied the analytical basis upon which the banks and insurance companies felt secure….
FROKE: … You could communicate with the banks though?
JONES: … He spoke their language. Bill was helpful, to some extent in that regard too, because he was a broker. He was one of the … although Marty Malarkey was in the brokerage business when …
FROKE: … Yes, yes.
JONES: … because both Bill and I sort of showed up after the Korean War because we were both in the Navy. All this business had really already gotten started. It was quite a ways along in terms of being a business and an industry before the Korean War was over. But he was a deal guy. He could put together deals.
FROKE: You had mentioned in the earlier session with you that he was a dynamic salesperson.
JONES: He was.
FROKE: He had a personality that drove …
JONES: Right. That drove … he was a very magnetic sort of guy. We had a lot of fun together in the earlier days. So he had to buy and sell cable systems and to do that you had to get financing.
FROKE: Yup, yup. He was coming at it another way.
JONES: Yes. The mother of necessity was speaking to him, and he resolved it by getting insurance companies and others involved. But clearly, you’d have to say that Paul was the guru that everybody turned to – and to some extent Marty Malarkey as well. People had great faith in Marty and his integrity in terms of numbers, consulting, advice and things like that.
FROKE: And it covered the whole business community, not just the cable business? In other words he could walk across several different business paths.
JONES: Who are you talking about, Paul?
FROKE: No, Marty Malarkey.
JONES: Yes, Marty, you know, was very talented guy, and he was a very believable guy. He was … I know Bill used to call him …he was the guy you’d go to to get it done already. He was a very sage man.
FROKE: In a sense, you became an MSO with the acquisition of Idaho Springs.
JONES: Right, that’s true.
FROKE: And you were talking in our earlier session about the strategy that you used to acquire then, some of the next cable systems that became a part of your operation. You would fly over a geographic area, and you’d be looking, then, for population base for the headend location of an existing system and then looking at what the possibilities were for reaching population areas off that headend.
JONES: Yes, right. I mean, I had topographical maps that …you knew where the tower was and how high it was and what the distance was and how high the hills or mountains were around the site that you were looking at. Georgetown was ideal because it was in a crevasse actually. You don’t even get good radio in Georgetown without some kind of …
FROKE: And you were looking for expansion capability for a particular system.
JONES: Right. The day I bought … five minutes after I acquired Georgetown … it was a snowy day. It was a very blustery and windy, winter day in Georgetown, Colorado. When that happens there it’s like being in a different, special world. It’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist, only Georgetown. I remember yodeling in my Volkswagen going down – because I was now in the cable business – going down to the Alpine Inn to my table to have a cup of coffee. And I had Mel’s little book that showed his 100 subscribers and how none of them had been paying him. So I had a yellow pad and my pen, ballpoint pen, and I was calculating how much it would cost to build the rest of America. I calculated that it would take something over $10 billion. Then I started thinking, well how do you become a player, with 100 subscribers that aren’t paying anything, in that kind of a marketplace. So I started thinking in terms of how I would get the good parts one place and the bad parts in another place. Because the cable systems, in the first couple years to a bank, were disastrous. If you look at their balance sheets, they just weren’t making any money. They had all this debt. They had this plant that you had to roll up and store some place … you know, that’s what I was saying before. It wasn’t five – it took five years to sort of get out of that so that you could get some kind of loan at a bank. So you had to … I was figuring on some way to separate the two so that the depreciation and amortization and the losses were one place, and I could put earnings some place else. So that’s how I devised Jones Intercable so that it would be a management company and would be the general partner, that I would have limited partners. I would have all the tax stuff and all the bad stuff over in the limited partnership, and I would get a net fee for managing it so I could show earnings, even though the operation was just like any other cable operation was showing – huge losses for a long time. But the limited partners could write those losses off so it was an advantage to them and therefore drive an investment in to this structure. So I checked that out with – the concept – with Carol Rice who was Rice and Enright (Don Enright lives up in Boulder. You should interview him. He could tell you some fascinating things about how we financed things in those days.). I checked with Don Enright to see if this would work from an accounting standpoint. Carol said, “Yes, it ought to work.” I started wringing out with a law firm – although I thought it would work, I was a lawyer – to see if they thought it would work. They basically didn’t think it could work. It was too awkward. But then I noticed that … and my brother, who later came with me and it was a very important part of building the company, was working with an oil company that was thinking about doing a limited partnership concept, a public limited partnership concept. So I got those documents and analyzed those. I just thought it would work much better in cable than oil because you had some hard, physical asset that you were working with. It wasn’t so much conjecture, and you could predict easier. At any rate, about that time I decided I needed to know a lot more about financial statements than I knew to build a company. So I started thinking about going to Stanford Executive Program … and I just started …..Well, first I put together a couple private, limited partnerships and put Georgetown and Empire in two private, old partnerships to sort of see how you would sell this and what the concept was and sort of get them working. I felt that this would work. But what I needed to do was a public offering. But I needed $150,000 at least, cost you more now, to do a public offering. So I said, “Well, I’ll take Jones Intercable public.” But the reggae. They just raised the limit to $500,000 from $300,000. In that process I decided if I’m going to get into sort of the big-time financial world with all this, I need to get a little help here because I was feeling inadequate. I couldn’t do everything myself. So I decided maybe I should go to Stanford Executive Program. I applied and was accepted, but I was going to go, but then it cost $10,000 which was a lot of money for me. I didn’t know whether I had the time because it was three months long. So at the very last minute I decided to go. The fellow that was running the program, Dr. Alexander Robicheck, became a good friend and later came on my board. He was, I think, wanting a rock ‘n roll entrepreneur in the class or something like that. But he was good enough and gracious enough to say, “Okay.” So I went there and lived in the girls’ dorm, basically took the company public from the girls’ dorm at Stanford while going to Stanford Executive Program which turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. When I got out of Stanford Executive Program my company was public, and we raised $380,000 which was enough to do a public deal. So I put together a document to go public and filed it, an S1.
FROKE: The Security Administration approved it?
JONES: Uh-huh. It had a terrible time – at SCC. In doing this, in term, and Dreyfuss wanted to … had decided that cable was where it was at, cable was the future. They were panicked to get into the cable business. They had somehow hired this vice president who was in charge of searching out who could take them into cable business. This guy was incredible. I would be at a restaurant in California and the phone would ring. This guy was amazing. It would be this guy. “Glenn, you’ve got to come to New York and talk to us about cable.” I didn’t want to go to New York. So finally one day he called, and I was in a restaurant in … I was in Denny’s or someplace in California having my evening meal. It’s a lot later in New York. This guy – it’s 2:00 in the morning where he was. So I said, “Okay, okay. I’ll come to New York.” I went to New York and on the way back on the plane I had a yellow pad so I drew what we could do with limited partnerships and a series of limited partnerships. I remember that because the airlines lost my luggage. Anyway, I arrived and they put my up at the presidential suite at the Plaza Hotel – Howard Hughes had just moved out or something like that. I was lonely and there were chandeliers all over … and they were right across the street in the GM Building, up high. They sort of kept the blinders on me. I went over there the next day with my yellow pad and they said – the president, who is Jerry somebody, I forget, a real lovely guy – asked me if I had developed a business plan. I said, “Oh, yes, I did.” So I just went in my briefcase and pulled out this yellow pad which sort of startled everybody. It was kind of crude for what they were used to evidently. They had it Xeroxed and passed it around, and we chatted for awhile. Then the CEO came in and sat and listened for awhile and said, “At last we have somebody that knows what they’re doing. Mr. Jones, would you stay for dinner?” I said, “Sure.” So we had dinner that night, and I remember the lawyers were there and the accountants – they didn’t have just one, they had …. They kept saying you can’t … this is not doable. You can’t do this. You can’t do partnerships. It’s impossible. Finally one of the board members … many members of the board were there … finally spoke up and said, “You don’t understand. He’s doing it.” So we were going to do a series of … I remember going to dinner like ask a lot of questions and then after asking all these questions, sort of sat there by myself. I finally, sort of at the end of the dinner, I said, “Look, you’ve been asking me a lot of questions, and I’ve been answering them. It’s been a nice discourse and everything, but if you want to be in the cable business so that you can have a successful deal when you sell in two years, I’m just not interested in talking to you. But if you want to build another Union Pacific Railroad, we can talk.” So they decided they wanted to build another Union … At any rate we were going to do a consecutive series of $25 million deals, and they had their shtick and the power to sell these partnerships which I was finding difficult because I’m a terrible salesman. And I wasn’t finding anybody that was willing to sell my partnerships even if I did have them registered. I couldn’t find anybody that would sell them. We negotiated for a long time, went back and forth. Just to shorten that story up, I decided I didn’t really want to do that. So that left me with trying to sell partnerships myself, which I found I really couldn’t do. I had a friend who was a dentist. And this guy was a friend. I took my slide projector and went to his kitchen with he and his wife. I talked to them for 4 hours for $1000 investment in cable TV Fund 3, I think it was, because the first two were private deals. And I couldn’t sell them. And they were friends. And I was talking about gigahertz and megahertz … it’s not the way to sell. So I finally decided, well, I can’t get anybody else to sell it, I’d better form a securities company. So I went down, I took the principal’s exam. I studied and took the securities principal exam and formed a securities company called Jones … it was called Ensign Securities because it was like a newly minted securities company. I figured it was an appropriate name. I later changed it to Jones International Securities. So I had instant securities. Then I tried to put together a selling group with Ensign Securities and tried to get people to sell it for me – as a group. And I was a securities company. And I could maybe hire somebody in instant securities to sort of wholesale it to retailers, other NSD companies that would then retail to their base of investors. So I found one. I remember I was invited to …. I just couldn’t find anybody that would sign up with me, I mean because I would tell them about the cable business which they didn’t know too much about in the first place. Then when I talked to them about limited partnerships, their eyes just glazed over, they’d roll over and I’d just see white in the pupils. It was just too complicated for everybody. So I was invited to … if you bought breakfast, there was a group in Colorado, I forget what the name of it was, but they were securities sales people, sort of low-end securities sales people, not the Bashes and people like that, but the little companies, little NSD companies that were selling tax things. Some of them were good, and some of them weren’t too good. I bought breakfast at Uncle John’s Pancake House and for buying breakfast, you got to speak about your product in front of these guys so I told them about my cable limited partnerships. After breakfast these three guys hung back and – they had lost their product because of something, something bad happening to the general partner or the trust that they were selling for and so forth. So they were interested because they had nothing to sell at the time. I convinced them to sell my partnerships. So now I had a company that was in my selling group to help me sell. And they were terrific ones – A. G. Horiushi was a Japanese guy and there was a bookkeeper, a meticulous guy, and a guy that was sort of flamboyant, big, tall guy, terrific guy – Irv Blake.
FROKE: And they had contacts in other parts of the country, too?
JONES: No, no, in other parts of Colorado.
FROKE: O.K. All right. You hadn’t got that far.
JONES: Right. So I used to go with them on sales calls, and I was learning a little bit. I was a slow learner. I knew I was not going to able to do this in the magnitude, personally, that it was going to take. In any event, I just kept signing up little companies in this selling group, and we ended up with about 250 NSD company wire houses, including Bashe, Shearson and the large companies at the end of the day. But we raised about $135,000 in that fund. So I closed it down, and I went down and I bought Atala, Alabama. Interesting story there, but anyway I bought the system and that was – and we put that into the fund – that turned out well. I quickly filed another registration so now I had the three systems, and I had Atala, Alabama. Then I quickly filed Fund 4 and raised $425,000. By now I’d had more in the selling group and had that pitch down and were getting organized. We raised, I think $425,000 and bought a system outside of St. Louis, name escapes me right now. But at any rate, we … it was being managed by Daniels – it had failed. It was an Anaconda system, and I bought it from Anaconda over the telephone, basically. I went down and looked at it. I had all this data on systems, and I looked at it and said, “Well, this should be … it was in front of a lot of homes – had zippo subscribers – was a top market, was getting a lot of stuff off the air, but still should be doing better than it was. It was being managed by Daniels. So I called and talked to the vice president of Anaconda, and they were trying to get rid of all the stuff because they were merging with somebody and this was a wart that needed to get rid of to clean up their balance sheet and they needed to talk about it. They had two systems. I said … he sold it to me for $125,000. I bought it over the telephone, basically. After I bought it, other people really tried to get in between the deal and wreck it and get in the middle of it. And Bill and I competing here but I ended up…. But this guy was really good for his word. In fact, I took my son back to the closing so he could sit there because I wanted to show him how American business really worked with good people. He was 14 years old at the time. But they were just solid people and we closed that deal. They had a system out in Mountain Home, Idaho so I bought that over the phone too. The same sort of thing happened there – good for their word. We shook hands on the deal mentally.
FROKE: Each one gave you additional experience and the process became more refined?
JONES: Right. So now I’m really growing and closed that Fund 4 and Fund 5 and everybody … it was pretty un-American to be doing this.
FROKE: Why do you say that?
JONES: Well, that’s … some of the securities companies just thought this was a terrible way to raise money.
FROKE: It was in the perception …
JONES: The large cable operators would give it faint praise because we were, after all, friends. …
FROKE: It was the perception that some people had.
JONES: Our cattle were grazing on their grass. It was that kind of an attitude. But we plowed our way through all that. Then I figured, because we’re not getting a lot of support from the industry, that that’s not who I wanted to deal with anyway. I was really dealing with the financial community. So I designed everything for the financial community and by-passed the industry, basically, because I knew if I had the money they could like me or not like me. I was going to buy the systems anyway. So we did that. When we started raising … when one of the funds, I forget which one it is, six or seven, something like that, … we raised $50 million. Well then all of a sudden Bill and others thought this might be a good way to raise money. So they jumped in. But by that time … when they went to Wall Street to talk to securities companies … while they were big in the cable industry, nobody on the street knew who they were particularly. They would say, “Oh, a Jones deal.” I know that.
FROKE: So you were widely known by that time, yes?
JONES: In the financial … on the street, you know. But that’s … you know, solve the financial problem and you don’t have any problems. That’s the only problem you had to solve in this business at that time. We got to the point where we had some followers trying to catch up but nobody ever laid a glove on us. We were just too far ahead of everybody. We ended up raising over $1 billion in equity. When we were cranking along, we were raising about $200 million a year. It got so we had 1,000s of people. We trained 1,000s of … brokers would bring them into this building and train them 100 at a time, Bashes top brokers and Dean Whittier. And then they would go back and radiate and sell our products. We had this incredible incentive trips to Paris or wherever for these guys – we really had them going. For a variety of reasons, that business … real estate and oil deals crashed, a lot of them, especially when the large companies, large securities companies, thought they could do it because they could raise the money. They thought they could run these things. It happened in cable too and, of course, they couldn’t. They would come to us and say, without mentioning names, … I remember one of them came to us and said, “Look, we’ll sell your stuff, but you’ve got to make it look ‘we’ve got a better design.'” And I had computer runs stacked that high that I knew exactly what worked and what didn’t work in cable business. And these guys wanted to design it like a real estate business because they could sell better. But then they’d have a constant revenue stream and all this stuff was great or it’d be …. One of them said, “Look, we want it to look like our Wheat Heart deal, …” which was a cattle deal – it was called a Wheat Heart, “…and it will sell your stuff.” But cable wouldn’t work with the Wheat Heart structure. So we just refused to do it, which paid off in the end because our deals worked out and the other ones didn’t.
FROKE: You stayed with your design?
JONES: Well, I knew what worked. I knew the sweet spot.
FROKE: How did you match up a purchase of a cable system with the fund that had been publicly supported?
JONES: Well, I had to form my own brokerage company because, you know, as great as Bill was and everything and the other brokerage companies, we would get second bites of the apple. At that time he had a little cable operation himself, and maybe they would get first bite and we’d get second bite. So I had to assure that we got first bite at apples so we cranked up our own …
FROKE: And the amount of the fund would determine what cable system you would put into the fund?
JONES: Acquire, right.
FROKE: Did you put more than one system into …
JONES: Yes, right. We put several in. Then we started doing serial funds. We’d do, like register $200 million or something like that.
FROKE: You mentioned $1 billion as being the total equity …
JONES: … Yes, it was actually $1.3 billion but that was … we raised some money for …
FROKE: … How many funds were involved then, how many separate funds?
JONES: Well, I forget how many. But Paul Kagan and I had a race …
FROKE: 100, 150?
JONES: No, no, not that many. Paul has a lot of newsletters. So we had a race going on that I could create more partnerships than he could newsletters. And I still owe him dinner. It was a joke we had going on for years. I’d be ahead, and he’d be ….. But, you know, as new things like MMDS and LMDS and things come out, he’d form a newsletter with that technology, and I’d form a new fund. So we had a lot of fun with that over the years.
FROKE: You’ve always been the intellectual in terms of scholarship, looking for informational resources. Al Warren, I know, was a principal source of information for you too. In other words, you didn’t necessarily have to have the first-hand experience yourself. You could go out and gather information and make extrapolations from that like any scholar would.
JONES: Well, we did a lot of extrapolating. We did a lot of prediction. I shouldn’t say this, but it was 20 years ago, I gave a speech about convergence, how this stuff was going to come together to – it might not be exactly 20 years ago, it was a long time, in Bermuda, to Robinson Humphrey brokers who were a very classy brokerage house in our selling group. They had their key managers and sales people in Bermuda, and I was invited down to keynote and talk about our product. Anyway, just for drill, I pulled that speech out and gave it last year and everybody thought it was terrific. So all that stuff did come to pass actually.
FROKE: I ran across something similar, not your paper, but Hub Schlafly’s paper related to satellite communications that he had delivered quite some time ago.
JONES: It was exactly predictable but you could see that stuff working and you could dead reckon it, you know. You could say it’s probably going to go here and if it goes there, this is going to happen, this happen, that’s going to happen. Then when computers started to become a factor, that really roused my curiosity. You could see all that stuff coming together, and you just wondered why we didn’t have the substance to make the Silicon Valley, talk to the cable industry and Wall Street and get everybody in the same room and so forth. Even when we created things, like we were talking earlier, ___ encryption, deep encryption and compression – couldn’t get anybody interested in it, in any serious stuff.
FROKE: So you were a cable operator. You were a broker. You were a financier. In addition to that, then, you had some of your own ideas as to what a cable system could do in a community and had some high quality operational standards for all of your systems. When you go through the literature or glance through the newspapers, you never run across a Jones system – or I’ve never run across a Jones system – that was under attack by its customers. What were some of the things, then, that you did to have that astounding record in a field that was damned so severely by regulators and legislators for customer service short-comings?
JONES: Well, we were pretty aggressive about rebuilds and getting things working right. And we were also pretty aggressive in terms of what the system needed to look like. A lot of systems in those days where -–you’d go to the office and it would be a converted gas station. You can do what you want to a converted gas station but it always looks like a converted gas station. It made sense. You’d drive through, you’d pay. We, early on, sort of developed a concept. We used to devise interesting management systems and motivational systems and compensations systems, and they proved very helpful. One of the aspects of it was that people had to have a good place, a decent place to work. So we would just tear down and build new buildings. They would be sharp and they would look like the cable television industry should look like if there was going to be a futuristic entity in town – things like that. We were very careful with …
FROKE: It looked like an organization with stature.
JONES: Well, we were careful with graphics and logos and slogans and things like that so we did a lot of that. Then we raised $1 billion and we borrowed $1 billion on top of that. Then as we acquired systems ourselves, we used more leverage. Early on we got into education as well, because you could just feel the power of a cable system in a community and what it could really do there if you had the right attitude. In our organization we call everybody associates – it’s not that that’s unique but we did that early on. We never called anybody employee. From the very beginning they were associates. We had sort of a code and the idea was that if everybody understood where the north star was, they’d get there – almost like collusion. You didn’t have to have a lot of meetings if they had a very clear vision of where it was that you were going. So we developed this concept of participatory self-management, which is that you need to manage the assets around you. But at the same time, you need to constantly talk to your people who are reporting to you and the people to whom you’re reporting.
FROKE: So you had this, so-called, what’s now called team approach – you did that early then.
JONES: Yes. This concept was very compelling because I had the same response. Our organization chart is designed in groups of rockets. Each company is a rocket heading for the knowledge culture. Ten years ago I called it the information culture, but then we changed it. The knowledge culture was described – it had a bunch of rings going around like electron – it would describe what each one of these rings were, how you could know that you were in the information culture or the knowledge culture, or what was out there, so where you were headed and what you needed to plan for. Then the companies were grouped in funds because that’s the way we raised our money, in partnerships. Then we would have, included in that group, were the other companies, like support companies because you needed things like buildings so you needed companies. You had to have a finance group to raise our own financing and a brokerage company to buy and sell cable systems, brokerage company to sell securities. So we had those all clumped into categories – flights of rocket ships headed horizontally to the information/knowledge culture. The process through which that happened, the path of flight, was something we called mind extension because we thought we were, instead of extending the human body like people were doing in the industrial revolution, we were extending the human mind in the next century. We were in the business of extending the human mind, and we thought we could have a dramatic impact in the extension of the human mind which got us into education and other things. Really the business we were in was in the mind extension business. We were never in the cable business. We were in the mind extension business so we were in a different business than everybody else basically.
FROKE: Okay. Okay.
JONES: Then we had a lot of … this participatory self-management was part of the concept of being in the mind extension business. As everybody had the obligation to explain what they were doing to their people that were reporting to them and to the people they were reporting to, I likewise had …. So every year, and we still do that here, we rent a hall or a theater and have everybody come there. It’s my responsibility to tell them what’s going on in the holding company so that everybody understands what’s happening. That’s my responsibility – I have to do that. It works from bottom, from janitor to CEO. Then we have this concept of what we call IQ, imagination in quality, because if you think quality, you’re going to have quality. Imagination is as big an asset as real estate or engineering. You’re cajoled to be imaginative in managing these assets. And you have to have quality. So we have a lot of these attributes. One of them also is attack. Attack, always attack, so extremely aggressive. If you attack in pursuit of a business objective and make a mistake, that’s okay Everybody expects that. So you get a reward and patted on the back and have a little rest and get back in the frame. It’s special if you make a mistake being aggressive and attacking in the marketplace. As a consequence, we’ve made a few mistakes. But that’s okay because you do more damage by hanging back and having analysis paralysis than attacking. Our logo is a dragon. That’s sort of an internal logo. Everybody had these little dragons on their telephone with “Attack, Attack, Always Attack” on their telephones. It develops an attitude. So, yes, we are a very aggressive company. Then we have some other things so….
FROKE: In effect, you’re organizational structure with a social institution really.
JONES: It was very tight and social. But we could turn fast and attack.
FROKE: Let me then raise a point that relates to a visit that I made at your corporate headquarters, maybe 8 – 10 years ago. You had your war room. Using telecommunications, then, you had applied it then, for organization and administration of your different operating systems across the country. And periodically then, they would, once a week or whatever the time period was, they would work with you personally. So in a sense then, you were using telecommunications to extend the social institution to the local operating systems.
JONES: Yes, we used it. We formed a group called Integrated Thinking Group. We had regular meetings. These were the hot people in the organization, young, hot people. They’ve gone out and become big successes in other companies at this point. They were taught to think of the business that we’re in like layers of chess boards – roll in an equipment rack, but in the rack instead of amplifiers and modulators and things like that, think of a chess board in each one of them. So you had multiple chess boards. And I’d tell them what the chess boards were – they’d be the satellite wars, financing, operations, and all kinds of things that were going on, securities. They were taught that when you move this piece, it changes all the pieces. So you have to think like that. So that was very helpful. Then we had an intangible thinking group, intangible leveraging group. That was because if you look the price of chips and the price of human talent, you can see that you need to move the chips away from human talent to the extent that you can, for pricing. You need to leverage your human talent so that to avoid bringing a lot of people of board and having a lot of people around, this intangible leveraging was that if you had a problem, like if you had a marketing problem, what you should is go to the local B-school or some B-school and hire the marketing professor and 20 of his students for $10 an hour. They got into the real world, and you got a lot of fresh thinking on this special problem you had. When they were through, they were through. That’s an example of intangible leveraging.
FROKE: Those Harvard Classics did you pretty good.
FROKE: Those Harvard Classics did you pretty good.
JONES: I don’t know about that, but these things were strange, but they really worked for us.
FROKE: You obviously have become a student of philosophy, psychology.
JONES: I was going to hire a vice president of philosophy at one time, and my peers talked me out of it.
FROKE: When I visited 8 – 10 years ago, one of your colleagues also showed me your bathroom. You have your apartment here in your corporate headquarters. You mentioned the computers awhile back. But you were into computers early, and you were, even during bath hours, retrieving data to analyze what was happening in your area systems across the country.
JONES: I got a lot of help from science fiction books. The Dune trilogy sort of became a bible. So the building here is designed around concepts we got from the Dune trilogy on the planet of Arrakis which was an outpost of the empire. It was a place where people lived, yet it was a fort. This building was built to replicate some of those concepts. It was built as a very livable building but a place where people could come and strap into the latest technology and fight. In my areas, like the bridge, the flag bridge of a cruiser, of a heavy cruiser so that I have an office, and then I have my war room and I’ll come back to that. Then I have a library with a Murphy bed that I can fold down so if the action gets heavy, I can stay for days. Then we have a commercial galley and the board room which is sort of the ward room – it’s our deal room. And that’s all interconnected. Then we have a presentation room on the 1st floor that’s interconnected with my war room which is also interconnected with the board room which can interconnect to the outside world by satellite if we wanted to so that we could function. The war room we put together to … we have 16 televisions screens in there, but they’re actually CRTs. They turn into CRTs. They’re either CRTs or television sets depending on how I want to use them. I was having a hard time getting the right kind of feel in there, the right kind of design. So I had to go to Hollywood and get the guys that helped out with Star Wars artifacts to help me out with it so that it was the right feel in there. It has an observation deck and then a module of electronics that we can manipulate the earth station out front to lock on to whatever satellite we want to sock down, look at things, look at our competition basically. When it was pretty up and operational, we would send out what we called strike teams to … if we were in an acquisition mode in the brokerage company and they can buy and sell cable systems in the Jones Group. So we would send the strike teams out. These guys all had day jobs but they were cross-trained. They could be an engineer, maybe a manager of a system, a marketing guy, depending on what we thought we were going to run into out there. We’d do this with or without permission sometimes. We had some embarrassing experiences. But these guys were very aggressive and they would go out and … we had a pamphlet, and you filled out this pamphlet with all the assumptions. Then we come back and we’d load them into the computer and it would switch the TV into CRT screens, and we had an observation deck in the war room. We’d tear the thing apart. If it was a company with multiple systems, we’d have about five ways we could buy them. We could buy them. We had three funds with capital to expand, and then we had our company, and then we had Space Inc. which is another story. We could tear them down and put them together again in 20 minutes once we got the assumptions filled up and reorganize them. Then we could figure out exactly what we could afford to pay for these things. It worked really great. Then also, we had these 250 wire houses that had to do due diligence with, and they were always coming out and lifting up the tree to see if the roots were still there. We had to learn to live with all that, but I was trying to get them to do it electronically. I could just dump the due diligence into New York and we get our end put together but they never got their end put together that well. We had 1.5 million subscribers on line so I could come in at 2:00 in the morning when I landed and come over and pull down my Murphy bed, go into the war room, and I could go into Albuquerque cable system. The software would… I could say what’s our cash flow this month compared to budget and it had a dummy kind of software so I could read it.
FROKE: Though technology, and this an exaggeration, but through technology you almost were capable of being an on-site manager operating out of Denver.
JONES: Then we flattened the organization. That’s pretty much … we had really flat … we had two layers. There was me, a layer of vice presidents, and bang – right down to the systems.
FROKE: One of the other things that I noticed on that first visit, and I’d not seen it anyplace else at that particular time, was the amount of effort that you had devoted to creating social areas, I’ll call them, within the building – cafeterias, eating places, and the like. My first impression was that you did it primarily because you built in an area that was not well-developed at that particular time. It was not easy to get to a restaurant. But since then, I’ve come to believe that you really built them because you saw those as an opportunity for people to get together and talk and visit and capitalize on what is basically a social time.
JONES: Right. And it was designed, again, from the Dune Trilogy. That’s why there’s a water feature. In Arrakis, water was very important. So we have a water feature. Even our flag is black and green, the Atreides family colors, the dragon flag.
FROKE: I remember on your first visit to State College, Pennsylvania, where I was working at the time, your private plane was also black. But I did not make the connection at that time.
JONES: Right. It’s all consistent.
FROKE: You should have told me.
JONES: In fact, Intercable was basically a 30 year business plan that just ran full circle, that played itself out. The only thing that didn’t work right was the stock price. It has recently, but it didn’t along the way so I didn’t have the currency of stock to acquire like I thought it would have. But everything else worked just right.
FROKE: Did you concentrate your acquisition of cable systems in the southeast, for example. I know you have major holdings in Virginia and some of the show places of cable operating systems really are your systems in Virginia. Did you have geographical concentrations in your early plans?
JONES: We built – we tried to acquire cable systems in the outskirts of major cities and avoid major cities per se. We don’t want to get involved in the politics of Chicago but we own the growth ring around Chicago. We didn’t want Washington, DC per se, but Washington, DC, in my judgment is one of the best markets in the world because you’re thinking about information …
FROKE: … Suburban?
JONES: … economy and knowledge economy and analyze what Washington is, it’s the information storehouse of the world. All that has to move in and out, and so that was my primary market. We tried to dominate Washington. We were interested … because that’s where the growth is and the politics is much better and it’s split up so you’re not at the mercy of one government, you know, one governmental body. The demographics are better, the growth is better, everything’s better in the outskirts.
FROKE: In the technology that later developed also played into that kind of strategy?
JONES: It did. So we had the outskirts of Chicago, outskirts of Washington, DC, some outskirts of LA. The only cities that we got involved with were great markets but not like Chicago – for instance Albuquerque, we had the outskirts of Tucson.
FROKE: You mentioned 1.5 million subscribers. Was that the peak of your growth?
JONES: Well, we peaked a little bit higher than that. Each one of them were on-line in my war room. You could look at individual bills if you wanted to go to that detail. But I could do things at 2:00 in the morning and ask my vice presidents in the morning about … and get answers. So it was a good way for me to operate. We were really fortunate in getting Jim O’Brien, Carl Vogel and Ruth Warren, and just terrific people that bought into all this and helped build it. I used to spend 25% of my time interviewing new hires.
FROKE: What would explain the lack of, I don’t know what you would call it, assimilation of your organizational genius, into other cable systems, into other cable operations? It would seem to be a natural. But they stayed with old organizational concepts for … certainly there was a change in administration from the mom, the pa type of operations, but the patterns of organization of other businesses seem to be what fell in place. You came up with new models.
JONES: Well, as I said, we were in the mind extension business, not the cable business. We were in a different business. I have to tell you, in the early days it was rugged for us in the cable business because we really didn’t get a lot of help. There was a lot of competition, and you had to do things new ways because if you did them the old ways, you were running behind everybody – you’re living in a world of exhaust fumes. You had to get up out of the trench and sort of develop new ways to do things.
FROKE: Going back briefly to Georgetown and Idaho Springs for a short time here. If I understand correctly, you really had your concepts of limited partnerships as a financing model very, very early then.
JONES: Yes, we created the public limited partnership model.
FROKE: That did not come later but it came really when you were first making your entry into the cable business.
JONES: Well, I had to find a way to raise capital that worked for the business I was in and for the securities market that I was addressing.
FROKE: Did I understand you correctly that none of your Jones limited partnerships failed? In other words, the investors got out of what they put in?
JONES: We had a lot of partnerships. I’d have to …. But they all did pretty well, some of them did fabulously well. Some were worse than others. Some were better than others.
FROKE: But nothing like the debacles in oil.
JONES: Oh, no. No. Because we knew where the sweet spot was and …
FROKE: You knew where they were …
JONES: … we had computer runs
FROKE: … what they were doing.
JONES: You know, when computers were making clacking noises …. We had a brush with venture capitalists that we got involved with that tried to take over the company. I remember that. That was harrowing and ugly, but we muscled our way through that too. The pert chart became a way of life for a long time because you had to know exactly where you were and exactly where you wanted to go and exactly what you didn’t have and where the critical paths were. It saved our bacon a lot of times because you could …
FROKE: … Was your 3-month session at Stanford University in the Executive Management Program a critical phase in your …
JONES: … It was. It really was, a huge success for me personally. As I said, it was interesting, most of the people there were executive vice presidents of big chemical companies in Switzerland or something that were going to be president when they returned. They didn’t have a lot of entrepreneurs per se in there, a few of them, but not many.
FROKE: But your lab project, in a sense, was the development of the limited partnership model while you were out at Stanford.
JONES: Well, no, I had that developed before I went.
FROKE: Oh, before you went, okay
JONES: Basically developed that in Georgetown.
FROKE: Did you ever get to know well Donald Jones.
FROKE: Up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
JONES: Right. Very well. Don and I are great friends.
FROKE: You had an affinity with Don?
JONES: Well, I got to know him later. I didn’t know him in the early days. The way we sort of looked at the business in the early days was we were living in a fort here and attacking the rest of the world that was attacking us. Everybody was a Cylon warrior to us.
FROKE: Don is not active in cable now but he does have a web site that’s called Spirit Enterprises.
JONES: Yes. We worked together at the Library of Congress. We were both founders of the Madison Council at the Library of Congress. I didn’t have a library for my cyber students so I thought I’d go to the Library of Congress and see if they would be my library. Don was helpful in that regard.
FROKE: In the different major incidents in the life of the cable industry as a whole, there have been various business initiatives by competitors, so to speak. The telephone people came in in a wild swirl not too many years ago really. And you joined that. What prompted you to go with Bell Canada?
JONES: Actually, before that, we did the first telephone company deal in the UK and that’s how we sort of got into telephone companies. I had acquired a study. It was a Rand study or something. I forget who did it, but it was on how to take over a telephone company. And it was a bizarre thought at the time. I remember it was on my desk and somebody, some investment bankers came in and looked at it and they laughed out loud. But I always thought it was a possibility. If the stars just lined up just right and you had the right kind of financing, you could take a shot. I never understood why they didn’t … in the early days we tried to sell them cable systems and things like that, but they … told them you had the trucks, you have the telephone poles…. Did the same thing to power companies but they just wouldn’t listen. They actually developed cable. They invented coaxial cable …
FROKE: … In Canada
JONES: … for their own strategic purposes chose not to deploy it. In any event they were great sources of capital. In the UK, we got involved early on in the Docklands area building the Docklands area. I always wanted to be in global business and so that seemed like a good place for us to start. So I went over there and got involved in the Docklands area. We got involved so we invested and became an advisor, but they would do nothing that we advised them to do. They just did it their own way – crazy things that we’d already done and didn’t work here – just couldn’t get them to do it right. So we declined in the second round of financing, waiting for it to hit the wall – which it did. The bank took over. So we went to PacTel to see if they might … we had reason to believe that they might be interested in going abroad. So we talked to them about doing … it just really took forever. Finally one day we said, “Look, this deal’s going to go down this Friday or it’s all over.” The week before I cleaned out the banks. I bought the bank’s position so we were the sole player … because so much time dealing with the telephone company. So that Friday night, I guess it was actually Saturday morning about 3:00, the deal closed and it was the first telephone company deal in the UK. Then, for their own strategic reasons – I designed all the documents to protect us in case – because they were the big heavy with the cap and everything – to protect us in case we had to come up with more capital. But I never dreamed that they would drop out. But they dropped out. Then we had to hustle around and find another telephone company. So we found Bell Canada and got them involved. And that relationship was pretty good. We got the franchises in Leads, and we were building Leads ourselves then. Bell Canada was over there in that deal. And we were building in Leads and Watford and some other places over in the UK. I had a good operation cooking over there. I was going to take it public, and I formed a … I had closed down a domestic partnership business because it didn’t work, and I found out that you could not raise money in foreign countries to invest in partnerships in the United States because the FCC had everything so screwed up at that time. It was not a good place to put money. So we were forced to go off-shore, basically. But I found out that I could raise money here to invest in England. So I cranked up, and we started a global fund. They’d start out slow, and they’d build momentum. In this particular fund, we were starting to raise $20 million a month. But then I decided to merge everything with Bell Canada and have a bigger company because Telewest and another company had tried to go public and hadn’t made it. So I figured if they didn’t make it, I’m going to have a hard time making it by myself. So wee went together with Bell Canada and filed on a confidential basis because we figured that the other companies had already trained the institutions to like … our readings were that they really liked UK cable but they weren’t quite ready … but we thought well, maybe they’re ready now. So then we surfaced with it and blew out a public offering and it was very successful. Then the other two came along and did the same thing, behind us. But that got me out of operations. I was on the executive committee and everything there, but we didn’t have any Jones operations because they had been merged in. We had a couple of Spanish operations by that time that we merged in as well. That’s how I got involved with Bell Canada initially. That was a good experience. So we kept talking. At that time …
FROKE: … Your first initiative, then, was with your holdings in England.
JONES: The UK, yes. At that time in the United States there were regulations that were imposing and debilitating if you were aligned with a telephone company as a cable company in terms of what you could and couldn’t do. But I decided that if I had Bell Canada, it doesn’t become an FCC problem, it becomes a treaty problem, becomes an international problem. So I can come at it as a Canadian government sort of thing. It’s a whole different ball game. They had great expertise and a lot of capital. By that time, also, I had decided that I wanted to get out of the cable business, in terms of owning systems, eventually. What I really wanted to be in was the content business because you could see the internet coming along, and you could see the generation of chips accelerating and maintaining. I had talked to people at Intel and other … to see how long that was …and they were telling me 15 years – they’re going to keep generating these chips, or 20 years. If you interpolate the generation of chips for 20 years and the other technology that’s in place, fiber and so forth, and we’d built the first fiber system in the country – we did a lot of “firsts” in the cable business – in Augusta we built that cable system. Cable systems could commoditize. If you looked at the philosophy, differentials between if you were a telephone company or if you were a cable company. And although we had gone to great length to posture ourselves as being sort of an entertainment and telecommunications company as opposed to fitting the telephone regs, which were different, over time you could see that that was going to be a struggle when the ISPs wanted on your cable systems, AOL predominately. The place to be for a company like ours with a partner that hadn’t figured out what they wanted to do in North America yet and that you couldn’t make deals with…. We could have at one time owned a lot of wonderful cable systems, but they didn’t want to do it, and they couldn’t move fast enough. They were still a telephone company. They just couldn’t grasp the meaning of a cable company. At any rate, the deal was that I would keep six channels including anything interactive and multi-media. I’d have the right to launch, at my discretion for 15 years, and then had to be carried in all of Intercable’s cable systems. I designed the language to take care of it. I didn’t mention internet, but I designed it to include the internet, the internet 2, internet 3, cosmic internet, all that. So it was very broad language which turned out to trap us in the end. We ended up launching some networks. So the deal was I would have the right to do that for 15 years, and they had to carry them. That was the major part of the deal. To me it was like selling a system and owning a system at the same time because I didn’t want to own the system anymore, the physical facility. I wanted to own the pathway into the home. That’s all I wanted to do because I was going into network content. Education is a network content. So that’s what we decided to sell. They were going to be very aggressive too – which they proved not to be – so that I would increase the subscriber base of any network that I wanted to launch. Then it became a struggle to launch anything because of the way the board was structured. It just became an almost incredible situation. They never really understood what they bought and had no comprehension of entrepreneurialism which we had discussed at great length before the deal. Then we had also decided that – when you scanned the 21st century that – one of the things we needed was a billing engine, a billing system, an intelligent management system that would slice and dice everything because we were anticipating the internet and doing all kinds of things on the internet, e-commerce, pay-per-view, all kinds of things, education, paying for classes that we were going to do with these systems. We searched the world for a billing system, an intelligent management system that would do this and couldn’t find any. So we were forced to create Jones Cyber Solutions to build an intelligent management system that could be a strategic weapon in this kind of environment. If you can’t bill it, you can’t do it.
FROKE: Crossing national boundaries and everything?
JONES: Right. So we started Skunk Works. It was in Jones Cyber Solutions and it was a derivation of … but anyway that became a problem with them, too, although we discussed it beforehand, before we closed the deal that they understood we were going to do that, it was a wonderful thing to do and it’s no problem. Well, when we closed the deal, everything became a problem – almost, you know – in short order. So that became a stand-alone subsidiary, and we built that, basically an international…. And it just became a real mess. We couldn’t grow. We wanted to buy the outskirts. We had a contract with SBC to buy Montgomery County which then we would have really controlled the Washington market. Then what we couldn’t buy, we’d overbuild because we were very aggressive. We had battle maps for all of our markets, but we needed their consent to do it.
FROKE: Bill, Canada had approximately 30% interest as a result of the financing with you?
JONES: Yes, 30%. But certain approval rights where we needed their consent …
FROKE: …yes, that’s a major …
JONES: … and this was one of them. We were able to protect the partners and the partnerships by excluding them. So before anything closed, I wanted to get all my partners out, which we did. Then we just became two warring factions, Bell Canada and us. It was just, such a – it’s almost an indescribable process that happened there. We had such wonderful people that … and there were just a few of them, one or two that created … that had no idea.
FROKE: In a sense the conflict of cultures was very, very …
JONES: … Real conflict of cultures. But it was really deeper than that. Every time the board would vote against something that they wanted, they would threaten to sue. It became … our board meetings were incredible.
FROKE: At what point did Comcast get involved -they were almost simultaneous – during the termination of your agreement with Bell Canada?
JONES: The coup de grace, not the coup de grace but the sort of straw that broke the camel’s back for us was when we could not buy Montgomery County, when SBC was going to carry back that paper. Plus we had money in the bank. We could have written a check. But we needed consent, and we just couldn’t get it. We put together three different packages of ways to acquire it, but what they really wanted was all the things that international got – they wanted back because the stock price wasn’t where it was in the money for them. They just kept looking at the stock price and not the assets. This is the same stock that was selling for $8 but went to $60. It’s now at $50, okay. And they paid $26 or something like that. So they were just totally chagrinned and demanded they would finally do it on their terms. They were obligated put in another $140 million so they wanted to be relieved from that obligation. Launching channels, especially internet channel, which they discovered was important later, became a real problem with them. By that time we had launched the first commercial internet channel in the world – before Roadrunner, before @Home and had about 3,000 high speed and hybrid customers in the Washington, DC market. And we were the first _____ in the United States and had drilled the tunnel underneath the Potomac River connecting Maryland to Virginia. We were really in an attack mode. We were ready to rock ‘n roll. We had a huge switch in Alexandria. We were in the telephone … we were doing telephone, telephony already. We had all this stuff figured out, but we just couldn’t move with these guys. We ended up in a lawsuit over whether or not we had the right to launch this internet channel which I called programming – which it is. It’s programming. Unfortunately, we decided to, okay, … and they sued all the directors, they sued everybody. The court was … ended up being Judge Matsch who’s a terrific judge here. He was doing the bombing case, the Oklahoma City bombing case. So this got sort of worked in. We decided – well we’ll decide it on the merits of the documents. I didn’t even go down to the hearing, to the trial. But it was tried and Judge Matsch, as great as he is, had never been on the internet and didn’t really understand this internet stuff, what interactive meant, wasn’t into all that. So he didn’t really pick up on that language somehow. So we lost that but had good grounds for appeal, so I was going to appeal it. And about that time, I decided we’re going to take these guys out. They’re just … you know, … because we can still rock ‘n roll a little bit and get another partner. Paul Allen and others were in the market at that time. So we were negotiating with securities companies, large securities, financial houses to take them out.
JONES: Sort of out of spite, I guess, the CEO of Bell Canada International decided to do a deal with Comcast. He left a couple hundred million dollars on the table perhaps. It cost us a lot of money as well. But it was great for Comcast. So they did a deal around us which they were not allowed to do because our document clearly state that they have to have my consent to do a deal, to sell their interest. So Ralph called me up – I was up at American Academy of Achievement Awards Ceremony in Jackson Hole – and I got a call from Ralph. He was on his airplane. He wanted to have breakfast in the morning. I love Ralph. Ralph’s a great friend, been a friend for years. I was delighted. Ralph came and he had a press release that had been prepared, and he wanted me to be part of this press release. By now I had a war chest of about $10 million put together to fight, to do legal battle with Bell Canada and was ready to rock ‘n roll. So we had a … he told me what they’d done. They’d put together this deal – that they would be a lot easier to deal with than the guys at Bell Canada. I spent a … and it was on a weekend. So I requested permission to have another day before they released this (it was a holiday weekend) before they released this press release – to tell our people what was going on so they wouldn’t read it in USA Today and Wall Street Journal. But Bell Canada wouldn’t give us even another day. Ralph wanted to, but he just … you know … they wouldn’t do it. So everybody read it here, and they were crying when I came to work, you know. Thinking the whole thing through and what the end game was, I decided we need to make lemonade out of this. In terms of my people, clearly they were much better off – than going with Bell Canada – with Comcast. I’d great admiration for both Ralph and Brian and Julian Brodsky and all the guys that I know for years, known them for years, wonderful people. I thought well, actually these guys are doing us a favor. They didn’t do it in that spirit but …
FROKE: … the timing …
JONES: … the timing and by now the internet … I could see very clearly what we needed to do as a company because we’re a small, imaginative company. We’re rock ‘n rolling entrepreneurs – probably would do better where imagination was a factor than where size and commodities and all that was a factor. So I decided to call Ralph and say, “Ralph, let’s do it. We’ll just work everything out. You and I can decide to do it. There’s a lot of warts and everything in this deal, but you and I will work it out.” And Ralph said, “Right.” It’s probably the smoothest acquisition in the history of cable because basically Ralph and I just didn’t let anything get in the way with it. Brian was terrific as well, and it’s just been a great relationship. It was very smooth. The systems they got were probably a lot better than they even thought they were getting, probably amongst the most advanced that they have and well-operated. In whole, it just turned out to be a magnificent deal for everybody.
FROKE: You do not have any operating systems at all now then.
FROKE: All of those were part of …
JONES: … completely severed. Nothing.
FROKE: So you’re out of the business …
JONES: I left the Executive Committee of the NCTA and the Board of the NCTA, not on the board of Intercable anymore, not an officer, not an advisor, just complete, no … non-competition clauses, completely free agent.
FROKE: In 1999 you also decided to move your programming channel, Knowledge TV, to Discovery.
JONES: What happened there is, early on, about 11, 12 years ago when I started Mind Extension University – then I called it because the concept was …. I would call it Mind Extension University which was confusing for everybody, but that was okay. I would work with the universities and eventually morph it into its own university. It was already called a university so, you know, just have things built underneath it and become a real university. I would leverage off the course-ware of all the other universities that I was dealing with at that time and become sort of a mother kind of university. What really happened was, at the end of the day, cable is not a good way to do education. Television isn’t, in terms of what we were trying to do. It’s a good way to communicate, clearly one of the great, spectacular tools of the ages.
FROKE: But informal educational …
JONES: … Well, the internet has much more depth of channel. Cable’s 24 hours a day and that’s it. Then you have to have a VCR to switch. And the reason I’ve started …. So it became superfluous to my educational efforts except as a driver to my web sites and to Jones International University, but truly superfluous. We sold it. Plus it didn’t have enough subscribers to really make it and Comcast … I talked to Ralph and Brian. They didn’t want to really do what it took to go forward with it. So we decided to sell it to Discovery where probably it’s best home is … and partly liquidate Knowledge TV … but we just sold the right to the analog subscribers. We didn’t sell the name or did not sell the library. It’ll live again on the internet. But when you think about the internet – the reason I did the deal with Bell Canada, basically – is the way I see the technology unfolding is you can become a cable system company again on the internet by just leasing space and not owning the cables. I would rather do that. Then you can select your markets for this package of – unique package – 21sts century package. I just decided to move all my assets from tangible world to the intangible world.
FROKE: You also retained your radio programming service, right?
JONES: We have three groups of companies basically – the education companies which is e-education software that replicates the universities in cyberspace or allows you to put course-ware in cyberspace, content, and the university and some other companies there. And then we have Jones International Networks. I think I’m going to change the name of it. That is composed of a group of companies where we have relationships with about 4,000 radio stations that we provide. We have 12 formats offering at a modular radio stations – largest country music network in the world. About 450 of those stations are country music. 1,200 of those stations, we supply their programming 24 hours a day. You have no idea it’s not coming from Little Rock, Arkansas. If it’s Little Rock, Arkansas, it’s all coming from Denver. With the internet and fax machines and so forth, we have about 100 disc jockeys operating in these 12 formats. Then we have another 1,200 or so radio stations that we syndicate to part times of the day. Then we have another 700-800 that … we just bought another company up in Seattle. I’m going to analyze fully what’s contained in there. Then we have – are building – a stable of talk-show hosts. We use our … we bought the largest independent radio rep firm in America. It’s in New York. They have offices in New York, Dallas, Chicago, LA and Detroit. We syndicate. We create program. We syndicate. We produce Nashville Nights in Nashville and Neon Nights in Nashville. We rep people like Dennis Prager in LA and a group of other talk-show hosts. We’re building that stable. What we do is we get two minutes an hour. We don’t charge for the radio programming. Then we take that time, we accumulate it and then Media America sells it to the dot.com world – to Amazon.com and those kind of companies. They’re big users. But they’re drivers to the internet so were building huge internet sites there, and we have uplink facilities, so those kinds of things in that company. And then we have Cyber Solutions which is a digital tool company. That’s basically a Skunk Works which we mentioned earlier, that builds this front-end intelligent management system that sits on the front end of the building entrance.
FROKE: In a sense of the radio that you do, whether it’s the talk show or the music formats, they constitute content in the same way that you were talking about content earlier.
JONES: Everything is internet or network content. But network content has cable networks, television networks, radio networks or internet networks, any kind of network. It goes across all those modes. We have the drivers with radio and television networks to drive people to web sites, whether they’re educational or other kinds of web sites. Each one of these talk show hosts also has a web site so we accumulate those. We’re creating a fairly substantial plural for country life style, one and education web sites over there so we’ve got a lot of web sites going on there.
FROKE: Chamber music, classical …?
JONES: No. We have classical music…
FROKE: … symphonic?
JONES: … golden oldies.
FROKE: You cover the whole range.
JONES: Yes. Hispanic. We’re doing a lot of Hispanic. And we’re selling music down in Mexico as well to cable systems.
FROKE: And your music, then, is selected on a segmented market interest basis, so country music goes to …
JONES: …Right. And then we were loading up music on a hard disc and sending it to Argentina, but that … there’s a technology distributor over the telephone company so … but again, all of this largely digital so it’s like a big, huge digital jukebox, so we’re building that infrastructure to run on the internet too. We’re moving all this to the internet.
JONES: Yes. Everything. And we also have – we’re in charge of about 50 channels coming off of DARS [digital audio radio service] satellite, you know dish-type thing, into cars. We’re charged with formatting 5 of those networks and handling 45 others in terms of selling their time.
FROKE: Let’s go to education and spend some time on education. When I first got to know you, you were developing then your concept of mind extension into, then, what you called Mind Extension University in your channel.
FROKE: We were talking within the context of television at that time – television distribution. And you went on then and established relationships with a number of colleges and universities …
JONES: …100 over time.
FROKE: … partners, affiliates and so on. What prompted you to move away from that format? You, in effect, were the organizer, the administrator, and then the colleges were the ones who developed the courses for you.
JONES: Right. And we put them on-line – well, we put them on television. We created the courses too. We would co-produce courses and whole degrees with them and things like that. So you could literally get your degree from your television set.
FROKE: Was it a flexibility issue comparable to what you ran into with Bell of Canada?
JONES: No. I’m very fond of the academic community actually. But it was just the evolution of things. I sort of always wanted to do something like this with tele-medicine or education. We did some experiments with tele-medicine down in Atlanta that worked really well. So we’ve got more to do there.
FROKE: Was it the pace of which they moved in accepting technology and you wanted to move a little bit faster?
JONES: No. What happened is, I had …. The way I started Mind Extension University was I had been reading voraciously – which I have back-packs full of books, and I don’t even know what I read or who wrote them necessarily. But I just buy hundreds of dollars worth of books, and I put them in back-packs, and I just go through them and I don’t know what happens when I’m through with them. But I’d been reading about education and educational problems in America starting with K-12 problems and how that was impacting our ability to survive as a nation and as a viable work-force in the 21st century. I had just finished reading a book called A Nation At Risk, which is a blue ribbon empanelled written book. There was a paragraph in there that said, “If the education system that we’re living with today in America were imposed upon us by a foreign power, we’d deem it to be an act of war.” Do you remember that paragraph? Anyhow I’d just read that book and it was a wonderful fall day, and I went to Washington, DC. I was in Washington, DC and my plane was at National Airport and you have to go in and out of there by appointment. I was early. I had finished early so I had my car drop me off at the Vietnam Memorial because I had never seen it before. I walked in the back end and walked through. That particular day it was very busy. People were in there and they had papers up, with a pencil, and they were getting the name of their loved one off the wall. They were leaving flowers and there were some ex-GIs there. One guy didn’t have an arm. People were leaving poetry and crying. It was just … I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. So I walked all the way through and then came back. And I was so shaken that I couldn’t make it back to the car, and I found myself weeping on a park bench, looking at this monument. It was this beautiful fall day, and my mind was just sort of trying to get back together, and I was thinking about these guys and the commitment they made. I was thinking about Korea and my involvement with the military and my brothers. I was getting ready to get up again because I’d sort of regained my composure … and this big leaf … I think it’s a sycamore. I framed it. It’s up in my office. I kept it in a tablet, and I found it again and I framed it. The stem hit me right here and fell on my lap and just laid there. I looked at it and I picked it up and I said, “Is this a message from God or what?” But anyway, I sort of did have an epiphany. I decided that for the rest of us … and I had just finished the philosophy behind a book that I had started to write when I was in the Navy about freedom. And I just had finally figured it out – how freedom worked in America. It was a novel that I’d written, and I still have it. But I could never finish it because I didn’t really know how to finish it with this … it was a philosophical sort of novel. At any rate, all this had been going on in my life. So I decided that I would – if education were such a problem in America, that for those of us that are still alive and have the means – that we should commit ourselves to solving this problem with the same compassion and the same commitment represented by what’s represented by the Vietnam Memorial. So I decided I would lay high-grade education all across America immediately – which I did. It was a matter of months to get … it took me a few months to get cranked up and get it done. I got a satellite transponder, uplinks, and I launched Mind Extension University dealing with K-12 AP courses, delivering them to high schools and anybody that wanted to see them. They were free. And we were teaching Russian, Spanish, German, French and Japanese, math and sciences which is where the problems were. All the AP … when money began disappearing from school budgets, they dropped the AP courses because there were fewer people involved. We were uplinking education from all over bringing it down in Denver and then re-uplinking it to Sat Com 5 and down-linking it. We were covering everything from Alaska to Venezuela and Hawaii to Bermuda. We eventually wired up about 1,000 high schools. I thought that this would really work with cable because we needed to more of this kind of stuff in our markets. It would be good for us to do this. We needed to do it. Not only that, it was intelligently selfish to do it because it would develop a new relationship with our subscribers that was different than sometimes the antagonistic relationship that we had because we were raising rates and things like that. We did that so we could accumulate … and I did that for 2 years and it was just losing money like crazy. But we would accumulate Japanese students, for instance, one of our Japanese from Alaska and he’s in Texas in a little town. So we had people that were getting full scholarships to MIT and things like that. It was terrific. The parents could watch their students too. We kept the classrooms down to 250 students in size. We really had this going, but we just ran into the bureaucracies of schools. We’d have to send a teacher, an English teacher, from San Antonio to New Jersey to take a physical so the kids in New Jersey could get credit, you know, stupid things like that. So I could see that I’m going to get burned up. Nobody in the world has enough money, unless you’re the U.S. government and can tax people every year, to make that go. So I decided to go into higher education – concentrate in that market because that was an easier market to work with. I could teach teachers how to teach using technology. Then I’d come back and address the grade school problem. So that was sort of the derivation of all this. It just evolved with the technology. Then I got … we launched in Bangkok. We had 800 numbers. But there wasn’t an 800 number in Bangkok. By that time I was into the internet big time because of stuff we were doing with the Library of Congress. I was one of the founders of the Madison Council there. We had a thing called the American Memory Project, in addition to the Global Library Project that we co-ventured with them, to move the contents of the library to the rest of the world because they were electronically remote. We had …
FROKE: …You led the way with the Library of Congress on digitization.
JONES: Well, that’s probably an over-statement. But the thing is …
FROKE: You charged them up to get moving.
JONES: We put … we got a copy of this. It was a laser disc juke box and put it in our headend in Jefferson County and ran it through Columbine High School actually and fitted out the library – where the disaster happened – in Columbine High School with the ability to access early American history digitally from our headend and do papers and everything. Then we got the software working to deliver to two, then three libraries. Then you could uplink it by satellite and lay it all across the United States. In addition to which, I wanted the Library of Congress to be my library for my cyber students. They were very simpatico to it. So anyway, now I don’t have an 800 number to get back from Bangkok. We were experimenting with the internet at this time also with this laser disc juke box of American Memory from the Library of Congress. We just went to the internet as the 800 number back from Bangkok. So that all evolved. Then it became really apparent that … two years after I started Mind Extension University, Ted Turner, J. C. Sparkman and myself and Amos Hostetter launched Cable in the Classroom – probably a little conspiracy going on there with Jim Mooney, who was NCTA director and a group of others that I could name, to put the lid on Mind Extension University because it would interfere with the political card and …
FROKE: … With Cable in the Classroom?
JONES: With Cable in the Classroom. It wasn’t just the political card. They were legitimately trying to do something significant but … which sort of closed down distribution, the acquisition a distribution base for Mind Extension University. John Malone was very helpful. He launched aggressively. And others did. But it wasn’t enough. And that’s sort of carried over. There’s some groups of systems now, at this late date, still don’t have carriage.
FROKE: Is this what prompted the … well it wasn’t your withdrawal, but you were not terribly active with Cable in the Classroom.
JONES: Not after it’s organization. It immediately … Amos Hostetter was appointed as the sort of the chairman and overseer of that by Jim Mooney, and it was held in tight control.
FROKE: The logical thing would have seemed to be that they would throw everything they could to support ….
JONES: I thought that would have been logical, and none of that … we could have done both. You know, Cable in the Classroom is fine, but it’s nothing near what we could have done. The governors of the country and the regulators really wanted to see things like Mind Extension. They wanted to see distance education. In the early days, Cable in the Classroom was antagonistic to distance education. We had some significant arguments about that. But it was basically positioned not to interfere with the NEA or PBS aspirations, whatever they were. Nobody wanted to get in front of that. And of course, we were an unruly horse in terms of what we might or might not do because we had no allegiance to anybody but our students and what we thought the world wanted. So that explains that.
FROKE: Before I forget about it, I should point out that you do have a record as an author even though maybe the one book has not been finished yet. You did the first dictionary of cable, …
FROKE: … establishing an educational base for what the industry was doing.
JONES: Well, the dictionary came about because, in the early days when I was selling partnerships, nobody knew what cable was and they didn’t know who I was particularly…
FROKE: … So it became the means to communicate with them.
JONES: … the bankers did. So I decided, well, how does one become an authority and get past this authority problem. I said, “Well, I’ll write the dictionary for the industry.” We need a lexicon because the telephone companies were creating terms that were getting into franchise who were antagonistic to cable’s interests. So I said that we need a lexicon with terms that are favorable to our interests. So I created the dictionary. Then it ended up on all the shelves of all the bankers. So I could walk in and look, and I could see the dictionary there and nobody ever talked to me about whether I knew what I was doing or not anymore because I was the authority – because I wrote the dictionary. Then we translated it into French and it got used around the globe.
FROKE: Your poetry saw publication.
JONES: Well, the poetry I started writing just because I liked to do that. But secondly because I thought that, especially in America, people look at businessmen as hard-edged, not too complex, grind-the-face-of-the-poor-in-the-sand kind of people, especially on television and in movies. The bad guy that is always poisoning his wife and selling dope or whatever, is always the business guy. So I thought, well, I will write poetry. I’m a business guy and people will be confused by all this and maybe they’ll stop and think about maybe business people aren’t that bad.
FROKE: You were too early to get into the children’s literature bit with you dragons.
JONES: Yes, well … Plus I think that business is an art form. I think it’s the art form of America. Money is stored energy that can be used like a painter uses paint. I can buy this glass or this chair or whatever component of things I need to create a new product or a new service. And if I win, I win. If I lose, I go broke or I lose a lot of money and start over again. But it’s no different than a painter painting a canvas with different colors of paint, except it’s more exciting because it’s three-dimensional. You’re dealing with human beings who are complex and always moving. Nothing stands still. So it’s truly an intricate art form. That’s the way it’s always been for me, and you have to deal with the virtuosos instead of the mechanics. You find out who they are and you deal with them, you know, like you deal with a good violin player. You find out that these are all a part of your life.
FROKE: And then you did find time to write an educational treatise about educational technology that got good reviews.
JONES: Well, it’s called Cyber Schools. People started to pick up on it now actually. Sales are starting to pick up. It was a little early. I think we were a little ahead of the curve. Now free market fusion, which is a philosophy and process and tool kit on how the free enterprise system, the private side, can interface with institution or nonprofit side of our culture to create new products in the 21st century.
FROKE: You have touched on so many things that relate to your sense of business and your sense of organization, and they all seem now to be moving toward culmination with your JonesKnowledge.com. It then, is the parent organization of your educational institutes. Within JonesKnoweldge.com, you have taken the e-mail web site type of address and really made it the corporate name.
FROKE: So it’s the corporate name that…
JONES: … Everything’s just in cyber space there pretty much. When the accrediting agency came to accredit … it took us about four years to get through that process which was grueling, but fair, I must say because the world needed a model for quality, accredited, on-line education. Now we have a model, and they wanted a model too.
FROKE: So what you did then was put together the parent organization and then began organizing the necessary subsidiaries to, in effect, create the institutional structure as well as the institution itself. And you then have Jones International University.
FROKE: And then you have e-education which is the process for …
JONES: … Right. That includes e-global Library …
FROKE: The library? You’ve got something called …
JONES: Life-long Learning Society.
FROKE: …Jones GetEd
JONES: …Yes, which is a …
FROKE: …cataloging of distance …
JONES: Right. And eventually that’ll be whatever – if you have problems with education, you GetEd and we’re going to create a …
FROKE: … Within all of these mixes there’s a student service, there’s a financial model, there’s a counseling model, there’s a course development process?
JONES: Right and a grade book so your grade’s immediately, instantly returned to you.
FROKE: Then you are moving ahead with your Jones International University as a separate, free-standing, accredited institution.
FROKE: You’re now offering a baccalaureate completion degree program in business communications. You’re offering a master’s degree in business communications. How far are you going to go with your curriculum?
JONES: We’ll have a Master’s in Business Administration up next month and plan to create maybe 4 –5 new degrees each year. We’re producing them in parallel now along with working with other universities, licensing courses to them and from them and sort of …. It’s a global concept. We have students from 34 nations already. We have formed an organization called the Global Alliance of Transnational Education. UNESCO is involved and the OECD and Russia, people from China, South America, Africa, from all over the world. We’re having our meeting this year, our conference, in Melbourne, Australia hosted by Monash University, the largest university in Australia who has gone through the accreditation process of GATE. GATE is a stand-alone, global accrediting body and also is building a database that rationalizes education on a global basis. So if you get a 2-year degree in Ceylon, now you’re in Hungary and some manager is trying to hire you in Hungary, how does this guy know what this is, anyway, that you got in Ceylon. So this HR officers and entrance officers at universities all have this problem so we’re trying to do this …
FROKE: … So you’re really not drawing any limit on liberal curriculum?
JONES: No. It’s a global, electronic platform, totally global. Most of our course work we’ll do … we’re working with American University with …
FROKE: … Will you be primarily, well obviously it will be, going beyond English, will you be multi-lingual in some of your courses?
JONES: The course-ware now is in Spanish as well as English, and we can put it in any language in 30 days.
FROKE: Say that again will you? In 30 days you can have …
JONES: … have it in Hungarian or Russian or Chinese or anything.
FROKE: Is this because of computer technology partly?
JONES: Well, it’s the way the software is designed. The content itself will not be in Chinese. Instructions and all that will be in 30 days. If you’re at the University of Beijing, then you’ll be in charge of putting your content in this shell in Chinese. But the software itself will be. You won’t have to worry about that.
FROKE: Another quick observation, in addition then, to your free-standing institution, Jones International University, you put together an educational service agency that services all other colleges and universities to move into the internet age and the space age.
JONES: Right. We can replicate them in cyber space in 30, 60 days. Typically what’s happening – they’re just putting degrees up or just single courses in cyber space …
FROKE: … That in itself is …
JONES: … convert those to the internet.
FROKE: That in itself is a new type of institution, isn’t it?
FROKE: There’s a collaboration among colleges and universities on a limited basis because it’s so difficult to achieve it.
JONES: It almost takes somebody from the outside to get all this working because there is a lot of competitive spirit amongst the universities. There’s a lot of leadership in that environment too and a lot of people that are embracing change. But there’s a lot of resistance as well. There’s a lot of “we’ve got to do it all” in every university. Of course, that’s nonsense. Take trigonometry. It’s trigonometry. You don’t need a California trigonometry, a Colorado trigonometry and a New Jersey trigonometry. Trigonometry’s trigonometry. It’s just, the duplication is not, you know, reasonable. The degree to which, and the amount of, education and training that needs to go on going forward is a compelling argument for doing it some other way because the United States, if you add up all the seats in all the colleges and universities, there’s about 15 million seats. There’s another 100 million Americans, adults, that want and need additional education and training. This is the way to get it, especially in the telecommunications industry, the cable industry as it morphs into whatever it ends up being. We’re very dedicated to making that the highest trained, best, hottest work force in the world. That’s how we can continue in the cable business.
FROKE: I’m going to interrupt you just for a brief moment and …. It comes to a realization that the tape that we’re on is just about ready to come to an end, and we still have some conversation that I would like to pursue. We either can have another hour here tonight or we can come back to Denver at some later time.
JONES: Let’s do it another time if that’s all right. I appreciate your coming here to do this. You’re the only person in the world I would do this for and hadn’t intended to really do this. But I have a …
FROKE: …You have another commitment to …. All right.
JONES: Yes, and it’s a political thing …
FROKE: I’ll schedule a time and I’ll drop you a note. Basically what I would like to do is spend more time on this educational issue because obviously it’s terribly significant. Then in addition to that, I’d sort of like to reflect with you on some other types of things that you might want to talk about in terms of where the industry is going, cable, both from an organizational point of view as well as programming point of view or content point of view. So let’s say that this is Part 2 and we will record Part 3 at some later time. Glenn, thank you so much.
FROKE: The date is September 12, 2000. We are in Washington, DC in the studios of C-SPAN to visit with Glenn R. Jones, one of the great pioneers in the cable television industry and a person now who has, as he explains it, gravitated toward the content side of cable. As I would talk about it, it would be the educational side as the technology takes on new dimensions in providing organized systematic education to not only the United States but the world. I’m using some of your words, Glenn, so you’ll have to forgive me. I’d like to go back at the very beginning. You are, as I said, one of the great pioneers in the cable industry. You touched every aspect of the industry. You’re widely known for the entrepreneurship that was expressed in how cable was financed with the limited partnerships that really got cable moving. We talked about that in an earlier conversation. On the technology side, using Alexandria, Virginia, as your flagship station so to speak, you pioneered practically everything for the cable industry, even leading up to the point of fiber and interactive television. You were out in front on customer relations. When it came down to the issue of how you reacted with the cable customers, you had the top rating, so to speak, of satisfied people with your selection of programming, your response to request for service, your response for request for new services. So you were way out in front, and it had all sorts of advantages for you and also kept you running. With that perspective and everything you did that was so innovative and, in many respects, unique to the industry, where do you now see cable going in the year 2000? What’s ahead for the cable industry?
JONES: You’re too kind, Marlowe.
FROKE: No I’m not – not at all. I admire you greatly as you undoubtedly know.
JONES: And I would like to just say a few things about how those things got done. One of the big events in our company was when my brother Neil came on board to help us with the limited partnership concept and put together a selling group that actually worked. I could never sell anything myself so it took somebody who knew how to do that. He was fabulous. We had guys like Bob Lewis, Greg Liptak, Kevin Coyle, and Jim O’Brien who was fabulous, Al Angelic, Tim Burrick and guys like Carl Vogel who has gone on to bigger and better things (he has an incredible career in front of him), and just a real lot of people made that happen. So it’s sort of inaccurate to point the spotlight on me. I was just sort of along for the ride.
FROKE: You’re very, very modest and I do recognize the talents of all those people you identified.
JONES: But where cable is going from here – you could see it evolving even 10 years ago into sort of where we are now, but it’s morphing into a whole new kind of industry that is, as yet, unnamed. AT&T is calling it AT&T Broadband which is probably a pretty good name. It will be interesting to see what Time Warner does with it when they merge with AOL. It’s no longer a single product, video product kind of thing. In Alexandria, for instance, we were delivering cable telephony, and we launched the first commercial internet channel even before @Home and Roadrunner there. So we became the first _____ there and we drilled the hole underneath the Potomac River to connect Maryland with Virginia. When you’re dealing with all that fiber, you just automatically become broader and deeper than what we typically think of cable as. So the term cable is not very descriptive anymore. But it will end up being a piece, a very vital piece, of a larger industry and I’m not sure what people will end up calling it.
FROKE: What primarily began as a distribution medium has now become an all-encompassing industry in communications.
JONES: There’s so many things that you can do, you know, when you get into digitized formats. One that we’ve tried to position ourselves is in the film business for instance. We started about 10 years ago. The reason for that was to be around and learn the business so that when the analog distribution system destructed under the weight of the digital world, that we would be there and try to piece together the pieces for a new distribution system of some kind. Education is the same way. You can do so many things. The Internet, not just the Internet as we know it now, but Internet 2 and Internet 3, when you contemplate that Gordon Morris law – generate computers every 18 months, make them more powerful, cheaper, etc. – if you take the chips where they are now and generate them for 15 – 20 years which Andy Grove says he’s going to do and he should know, then you superimpose upon that the algorithms that are making band width capability inside the fiber, the generation rate is even faster than the 18 months at this point in time. So the capacity is really awesome. What you cannot do now, you’ll be soon able to do. We’ll be doing things that are not even contemplated at this juncture, but it will be huge.
FROKE: Individuals will be able to manipulate their way through the communications system as almost a personal means of communicating.
JONES: You can see electronic communities going on now. In the university, for instance, the students study in a specific place, in chat rooms. But they’re from all over the world, Finland, United States, Mexico, and so forth. This is an electronic community. People don’t really think about that – that it is an electronic community. People are reaching out and extending the human mind.
FROKE: On a personal note, e-mail came home dramatically for me when our older daughter, who works for Associated Press, went to Sydney, Australia to be on the coverage of the Summer Olympics for Associated Press. So on a daily basis, we had e-mail messages going back and forth. It was just unbelievable the personal ways that people can keep together.
JONES: Our intention was, in Alexandria for instance, to recreate Main Street and some of the tributary streets and we put the stores that are there. But we also put in our own university and then we had a theater that you could go into and get movies that wasn’t there but was ours. Then we had these 12 radio formats, the largest country music radio network in the world. So that was there. The whole thought was to sell real estate in cyberspace – for instance a jewelry store. People will cross over into the virtual world from the real world, from the tangible, without even thinking about it. They’re starting to do that now. So you could go to the jewelry store and say, “Mr. Jewelry Store Owner, would you like to own the property above your jewelry store or will that be somebody else’s jewelry store? Mrs. Smith that lives in the suburbs either can get in her car and then try to find a parking place, see if you’ve got what she wants, spend half a day buying a bracelet, or she can jump on the Internet and go to the store on top of you and get it and have it delivered to her. So you should own that store too.” So we were going to have a cyber lease. I started to build a cyber lexicon, but we didn’t get finished before we sold out.
FROKE: As you talk about what you were doing in Alexandria, it occurred to me that it’s too bad that you did not have the Washington, DC franchise.
JONES: No it’s not. We had the opportunity but it was a great opportunity for somebody else.
FROKE: With all the imagination you had, ….
JONES: We had a contract, you know, for Montgomery County so we were combining the region pretty rapidly and pretty well. We had a partner that was not predisposed to move.
FROKE: As you were talking about the new types of organizational structures that are moving into place and yet to be defined for the cable industry, I thought about the need still for a local contact. Won’t the local cable operators in the individual communities still have to reach out to the people of their communities and will not that sustain a position, a name, for cable?
JONES: That will clearly create a position and that function is a very necessary function. But I think that the branding will be all different and may or may not be related to cable. CSR is probably a good example. When somebody calls in, they could be calling in about cable or ISP or telephony or long distance or anything. I think people tend to think of video programming as cable. So I’m not sure that the name “cable” will survive into the future that long in large markets because you’ll have national branding like AT&T Broadband. But there will be a manager, just like there is a manger for the NBC affiliate.
FROKE: So it will be a little bit like retail where the retail names have a tendency to disappear in a relatively short period of time.
JONES: Yes. You can see that starting to happen already. When we acquired systems, we changed the name quickly on the trucks and everything so we could have a national branding campaign. Others will do the same thing. But I’m not sure the name “cable” will be inculcated necessarily into that name as people start thinking in terms of broadband and doing all these other things – turning the lights on in your home, or the oven as you’re driving home from work. These kinds of things will eventually be with us.
FROKE: When we visited on the two earlier conversations, Glenn, we spent some time on education. You brought me up to date where you were in terms of your approach to the field. You’ve been a leader in the field and, behind the scenes, many people have been looking at what you’ve been doing and then going on and creating their own version or their own variation on it. So you have, then, the Jones International University which, last I heard, you were operating at about 18 different countries. You’ve have maybe 30 different educational programs, certificate programs, degree programs. You had a president of International University. You had a faculty. It was growing, in many ways, like an institution except that it was not bricks and mortar as an institution. It operated on a world-wide basis. Since then, we’ve had the University of Phoenix, Harcourt is moving into it now. Milliken is also fooling around on the edges of it. There are one or two others that are operating in what they say are national/international types of universities using e-technology, on-line so to speak. Where does Jones International University stand at the present time? What do you see for the future for it?
JONES: Right now we have students from 45 different countries so it’s growing very rapidly.
FROKE: In a relatively short time.
JONES: Oh, yes. We’ve launched a new MBA program. I forget what I said in the last tape, but that’s been credited by North Central’s accrediting agency. We’re still the world’s only totally on-line, fully accredited university. So students are coming on-line very rapidly, and we’re increasing the number of degree programs. Our next degree program will be a master’s degree in e-education. We’re a research university so that we concentrate only on on-line learning. I think also since we launched our e-global library which is an electronic library, a full research library, we’re starting to market that to others in addition to using it ourselves.
FROKE: And another subsidiary is your Knowledge Store.
JONES: We have Knowledge Store and Life-Long Learning Society and we have, of course, our e-education software which is …
FROKE: … a service to other colleges and universities. The state of Florida has just awarded us a contract for all the Florida high schools to go on e-education software after an exhausting analysis of all the products on the market. We have about 150 clients around the world including Hungary and Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Switzerland, France. It is growing very rapidly.
FROKE: You’ve become something of a spokesman for the use of the technology and appropriate ways for learning, organized, systematic learning as well as informal learning. When you speak about the countries you now have working with you, 45 countries, does that mean that you are on the road a lot with contacts in each of these countries or does your staff do quite a bit of it now?
JONES: I have a group down in Uruguay right now. A number of them are involved in forming networks at universities and putting them together into cyberspace as a cyber-university. In other words, they all participate and use our software and our library. So it’s all plug and play now. There are about 3-4 interesting networks of universities that we’re working with to replicate them as one university in cyberspace feeding off the courses of the various universities involved around the world. One of the organizations is called the World Alliance of Global Universities. The universities become global by going on line because then you’re automatically global. Then we formed off this the Global Alliance for Transnational Education which is one of the building blocks you need for global educational cyber environment. We did this because there was no global accrediting body so we formed one. The OECD is a member and others, people from all around the world. Last year we had our meeting in Melbourne, Australia because we had just accredited Monash University, their largest university. Their programs are, I think, in Hong Kong and Singapore. We just got through certifying Tomps University in Pakistan, their engineering programs.
FROKE: And this is the Global Alliance for Transnational Education?
JONES: Right. I’ve reorganized it now to focus more on electronic education because, as I said before, the minute you’re on the Internet, you’re global. So we will certify not only site-based institutions like universities, but also any learning activity whether it’s a corporate course or a degreed program for a university or any kind of learning activity as they proliferate in this environment.
FROKE: Let me make an analogy here, and then you stop me if it’s incorrect. The book publishing industry was central to the development of the organized systematic educational system of this country whether it be elementary or secondary or higher education. The book publishing industry, in effect, was the core of the organized, systematic learning program. Is your e-education becoming, then, the book publishing industry’s approach to higher education here in the 20th century?
JONES: No. There’s a strain between what Toffler would call the second wave and third wave environments.
FROKE: Okay. You did not necessarily draw from …
JONES: No. You can see it happening in Harcourt and Pearson.
FROKE: Toffler is now on your Board of Directors.
JONES: Yes he is. I’ve gone around to Cambridge and other places and talked to publishers. They’re straining to find a way to preserve their data base. I call it a data base – all the books that they’ve created over the last 100 years which aren’t archaic. The book is a great delivery system when you think about it. A book is endurable. It’s portable. It is indestructible in a lot of ways.
FROKE: It’s easy to read when you can’t go to sleep at night.
JONES: Right – all that good stuff. But in the digital world, what we’re doing at JIU, we’ve issued e-education. We have evolved a new release of our software which all in Java which is very object friendly, object-oriented friendly. So what we will do with our courses is break them down into minute objects, each definable and each in a repository that’s searchable so that we can use those learning elements, those objects, gradually, to build courses on the fly for people that need this piece of just-in-time education to do their job or to put together a new degree program so that we don’t have keep reproducing things. And we’ll sell them agnostically to the rest of the world. But even if you have all this content in book form, you still have to go through that process to do this. In our e-global library, for instance, we have 20 cybrarians and all the stuff is supportable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will end up with 50 topic categories and we have about 3,000 digital libraries around the world. Some of them we’ve had to disaggregate and recreate so that they’re searchable according to our standards. We’re hot-linked into the Library of Congress as well. There’s a real problem preserving your assets in a fast-moving digital world. From a competitive standpoint it’s not that bad even a company has been in business for 100 years – except for brand name. That’s important.
FROKE: You used the term cybrarians.
JONES: Yes. They’re librarians in cyberspace.
FROKE: That is a part of your strategy to make sure that the second wave and the third wave, as you were alluding to with Toffler, does not get confused too much with the historical past.
JONES: It’s like a billing engine. You know we have another company called Jones Cyber Solutions that builds a front-end intelligent management system that fits on the front end of billing engines to run your company. The problem is, with billing engines, you get into all these building engines that are clumsy and clunky. You can’t slice and dice everything. If you try to pull that along with you, you’ve got a real problem. You’re almost better off, if you have the money and a certain amount of time, to construct a new billing engine that’s robust and does what you really need to do in a digital environment.
FROKE: Let me identify an apparent, to me, contradiction then. In addition then to the innovation approaches to education that we’ve been talking about, you also have been very, very supportive of the Library of Congress, for instance, in its transition into the new technology. Is that not dragging along the old system?
JONES: I think that’s different. They’re not trying to be competitive in a competitive marketplace particularly.
FROKE: You have to look at it in a different context.
JONES: I look at it in a different context. And it is the largest repository of information in the world. As I said, I didn’t have a library for my students so I thought I would go to the Library of Congress and we were successful in making some arrangements there. Also, the Library of Congress is irreplaceable. It’s why I thought that the Washington market was the best market in the world for a cable system, and why I started to accumulate the market around Washington. If you’re in an information and knowledge culture, information culture moving to a knowledge culture, then you have to look at Washington as Fort Know. That’s where all the information – not all the information – but you have the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Health Medical Library. And all that has to move in and out to get to the outer reaches of the world. So it would be better if they traveled over my pipes than somebody else’s.
FROKE: Looking at some measurable things that may or may not be relevant in the early stages of where you’re going, how many students are enrolled in your various courses at the present time?
JONES: On our software at other universities, we have about 15,000 – 16,000.
FROKE: All right.
JONES: But that grows, of course, almost daily. In our own university, we’re pushing 1,000 now, and we’re going along about 50 a week right now, but I’m trying to get that up to 400 a week. It’s very scalable. There’s no reason why you couldn’t have 250,000 – 1,000,000 students.
FROKE: Have you reached the point with Jones International University and its various components of financially self-sustaining?
JONES: No. I still sustain it. I’m my own investment capitalist. At some time I may go to the market. We’ll see. There’s no need to do that now. I know that it’s going to be successful and it’s going to be huge. So there’s no use rushing and going to the market.
FROKE: Individual colleges and universities, some of them operating in consortiums, have attempted to establish an online type of presence. For instance, in your geographical home base originally out in Denver, the mountain states went together, and there was a lot of publicity and …
JONES: The western governors.
FROKE: Yes. The governors had a very flamboyant press party to identify what they were doing. But my information is that nothing really has happened with that.
JONES: Well, it’s not a zero sum. What they’re doing they’ve been basically doing for 10 years so there’s really nothing new in all that. It was a noble attempt to bring those resources together and a great experiment to do that. So we’re very hopeful that they will be successful because we can all be successful. It’s a special kind of business. It’s a special kind of competition.
FROKE: Is the bureaucracy of individual colleges and universities so great that it’s extremely difficult for them to collaborate and cooperate?
JONES: Yes. Yes it is when you come right down to it, it is. Plus there were 14 states, 14 governors. Some of them wanted to be the next education president so they had political agendas that are fine – they can be convergent with all this. Then you had universities in each one of those states. Some were sort of protecting their turf and could work harder for the cause, maybe, at the end of the day, and some that were. Then the accreditation process because you’re in 14 states that I don’t think are accredited yet. You’re crossing the boundaries of 3 –5 accrediting agencies. So then you have to get them together. It’s really stacking miracles to get into the political agendas of all these universities and accrediting. It’s very ambitious – what they’re trying to do.
FROKE: The audiences that you are reaching, I think, are so primarily the adult audience, the audience that can, on the availability of time, study only on a part-time basis. The older student, the part-time student then is your clientele primarily. That will continue to grow, and I’m in full agreement with you. Do you also have an audience for the conventional, under graduate?
JONES: We do.
FROKE: Is that where it comes in with these colleges and universities that use your e-education materials?
JONES: Yes, they use that. And then we have these conferences on electronic global libraries and things like that, and we refine the software, and then we make it available for everybody’s use. We license it to everybody on a real agnostic basis. That company, JIU, is just another university so it doesn’t get any special treatment. But it floats entirely on this so everybody knows it works. If it doesn’t work then, you know…
FROKE: Occasionally a political figure will latch on to on-line learning and such things as the Jones International University and will say such things as, “It’s not too long before the brick and mortar university will disappear.”
JONES: I think that’s unnecessary to be in a discussion. I don’t think that’s true in any way. Some clearly will have to get with it – these smaller universities that don’t have the IT staff. We’re very helpful to them because they can just plug and play, big time, and have even better software than some large universities that have crated their own that are clunky and don’t work too well, that aren’t keeping up. They’ll find themselves disadvantaged in terms of the marketplace to the smaller colleges that have more stream-lined technology that they’re using. Some of them will hang in there and clutch the past and just will be embarrassed. Hopefully none of them will be – but it’s really an augmentation technology not a replacement technology.
FROKE: Many of the colleges and universities will adapt and modify their instructional methods.
JONES: You can see them doing it now. Probably 80% of the universities in this country are doing something on-line. It might be just a course. Some of them have degree programs. You’re starting to see them. We’ve been talking to a couple of them about just replicating themselves entirely into cyberspace. Those conversations aren’t progressing very rapidly. So I think after people have time to exhale a little bit and take another breath, they’ll feel better about all this.
FROKE: You and I had some good conversations and a certain level of aspiration related to Jones International University and the National Cable Television Center and Museum. I’m no longer with The Cable Center as you obviously know. What’s the status of that relationship now? Is anything happening there?
FROKE: The Cable Center and Jones International University.
JONES: We’re sort of, as I understand it, we’re going to be their cyberspace tool. The building is not finished yet. I think when the building is finished and people move in, settle down and really get organized, …
FROKE: Some of those things will begin to happen.
JONES: The University of Denver and their University College is using our e-education software extensively.
FROKE: They are using it now?
JONES: Of course that’s the site of The Cable Center. I think The Cable Center, very realistically and intelligently, has described itself as an education outreach organization, not as a museum – which would be really inappropriate, I think.
FROKE: Right. In addition to the educational emphasis in content that you have, you also have other content initiatives. They include, then, your radio/audio program service that operates on a worldwide basis. Where does that stand and where do you plan to go with that?
JONES: It’s growing pretty rapidly. We have two cable networks, Great American Country and Product Information Network. I kept all of the rights and inventory, library, to Knowledge TV and all the graphics. I just sold the analog distribution rights to Discovery. So that’s relaunchable on the internet when we get around to doing it. When the streaming technology, we’re using it a lot in education. We’re doing live on the net events with country music stars. We started a country stars web site and we’re getting a little over 3 million page views a month now and it keeps climbing. We just launched prorodeostars.com so we’re launching a lot under a company called Jones Direct. So we’re sort of reconstructing things in cyberspace in that company, Jones International Networks, on the backs of existing companies that already have cash flow. This is just the opposite of what I’m doing with Jones Knowledge Group. It’s a total Internet play – just the converse.
FROKE: In your interface with Internet, do you also see Internet becoming primarily a highly specialized type of service? Some of the program services that had been established, some of the organizations that had been established in Internet, the web sites, and so on, to sell what was basically a television program service, are beginning to fall by the wayside now. It not really a program service on a sustained basis as I see it.
JONES: The Internet?
FROKE: Yes, the Internet and the web sites.
JONES: I disagree.
FROKE: You disagree?
JONES: Yes. My thought was that, as I mentioned before, that we might be able to replicate cable in cyberspace on the Internet and not have to own the pipes. As this streaming technology perfects itself, and of course we’re doing audio on the Internet now with Internet radio stations and things like that, that you can put together a package. It can be a different kind of package than cable. You can put together a defined package of networks – audio, video, education – and sell that package much like you sold a tier in cable only you sell it on the Internet. You don’t have to own it. So you’re selling it on a commoditized platform that’s cheaper than owning it.
FROKE: If you circumstance different, though, from so many of the others that have tried to establish a program service on the Internet? You draw upon a large amount of resource materials. You have a strong library and video and graphics.
JONES: I have a theory. It’s called a body pile theory. I don’t know whether I’ve explained this to you before.
FROKE: Nope, nope.
JONES: You see you’re an entrepreneur and you have an idea. There’s a lot of them on the Internet. You see the brass ring turning around up there, shining and glistening. So you get some financing or you have your own financing. You spend a lot of money, create a product, and you reach for the brass ring but you fall because you’re not high enough to reach the brass ring. So you fall, and you become a piece of the body pile. So the next guy comes along, sees the brass ring out there, same brass ring, raises some money, runs his course, falls on the body pile. Then the body pile gets bigger and bigger and bigger as people spend more money. So the trick is to be the guy on top of the body pile that can actually reach the brass ring with your money. I’ve learned that the hard way. It’s an old saying that if you’re dealing on the knife-edge of technology, it’s good not to get ahead of the blade. It’s sort of another way of saying the same thing. So I think we need more bodies on the body pile. We’re building chunks of it that are, in themselves, stand-alone businesses. People will put up with more to get an education than they will for entertainment. In other words, you’ll put up with production problems and things like that if you’re getting your MBA that you wouldn’t put up with for a minute if you were watching a movie or a sports event. So I’m working over there while this other side is going together. The audio side is pretty good so I’ve got that going. And all the music we do – we produce or create 2,000 hours a month in new programming.
FROKE: All over the world?
JONES: Well mostly here and it’s mostly audio. We produce videos as well. So we’re building a database. If I can start metatagging it now, because that technology is coming along too, into objects that I can build networks from my database, it’ll be like a movie library only much more useable and much more versatile in a digital context. I think that the time will come, and not that long off, when the Internet is a huge entertainment vehicle. It’s a whole new industry. It’s a whole new mechanism for this stuff. It will be different. It’s like education. I’m keeping my movie company, Jones Entertainment Group, but it’s sort of a stand-alone, off by its side, doing documentaries and things like that right now. I’m sort of waiting for things to happen so that we can create things for the new world like education will be back in production when we start streaming enough video. But it will be a different kind of production because it will be very interactive. It’s going to be different than what went on before but a lot of the same skills still required. So you keep those kinds of people around so you can weave that together when the time is appropriate – when you’re standing on top of the body parts.
FROKE: So in the cable industry, you see, from what you’ve said today, a new type of organizational structure evolving, and it’s still not defined to the point where you can say that these are the categories of the organization of the cable industry of the future because the cable industry, in terms of terminology, might not be around 10, 15, 20 years from now. And it seems as if you’re having just a marvelous time, Glenn, with education and content. The Internet is going to be seeing a lot of you in the future.
JONES: Well, I’m totally consumed with it. As a consequence I really don’t think about cable a lot these days. I loved the business, but it’s something I did and now I’m doing something else. My energies and brain cells are focused on the new things that have some relationship to what we used to know as cable. But it keeps refining itself and even the relationships back to it.
FROKE: You’re having a great time.
JONES: There’s a candy store out there right now for entrepreneurs.
FROKE: That’s good. Do you have anything else that you’d like to comment on before we bring our conversation to a close today?
JONES: Not really, Marlowe. It’s just that there have been so many great guys in the cable business. It was so character-rich, just wonderful, wonderful people – Johnny Rigas, Allen Gerry, John Malone, Bill Bresnan. I could just go on and on. Each one of them you love. They’re just cherished people. It has been such a magnificent way to spend the decades, being associated with people like that. Sometimes we’re competitors beating each other up for franchises, but I just think it was a very special time with very special people that were very committed and enthusiastic about creating a whole new something – nobody knew exactly what it was – industry that kept defining itself. It had such an entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurial drive that may be missed going forward. But on the other hand, I think in large companies like AT&T, you probably need a different kind of talent to run those kinds of organizations. Of course John and Chuck Dolan are building their own organizations and now they’ll be part of this new world. It’s just been really fascinating. And Comcast – the same thing. They’re becoming large companies in their own right. But they, too, are morphing into different things. They’re going into telephony, ISP stuff. They’re doing it all. It’s been great.
FROKE: The date is the 12th of September, the year 2000. We’ve had a great time visiting with Glenn R. Jones, one of the truly exceptional people, not only in the cable industry, but in the entire country. Glenn, thank you so very, very much for being able to spend time with us here in the C-SPAN studios in Washington, DC.
JONES: Thank you. Brian is another example of what I’m talking about like he built C-SPAN, Leo Hindery. I mean, you can just go on and on. It’s been a great ride.
FROKE: Thanks again.
Cable television pioneer Glenn R. Jones dies at age 85
– The Denver Post
July 7, 2015
Much has been written of Glenn’s involvement in the Cable and Education industries. Fewer people know that he also built a successful Radio business. Starting with his acquisition of a radio syndication company in 1991, he transformed a small company by injecting new ideas and support. By the time Jones Media Group was sold in 2008, it had become the leading independent Radio Network in the business. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to run Jones Radio Networks Denver operation for many years prior to that sale. Glenn stuck with what was a tenuous business (at first) as we changed our model to all barter, and quickly became the leading provider of 24/7 Formats to the radio industry. He believed in his people and their abilities and was a huge contributor to the success of the business, even though he had no experience, per se, in radio. Perhaps that was our advantage, since radio is such a closed society. It took someone from outside to break some molds and do things the rest thought couldn’t be done. We beat ABC Radio, Westwood One and others at their own game. As Greg Liptak used to say, “A bunch of cowboys in Denver”. Thank you sir. Your imprint on our industry will last forever. YOU may leave US, but YOU will always belong.
— Phil Barry
Glenn was a super entrepreneur and manager but what made him unique and successful was his vision, persistence and tight focus. He had a vision for each of his businesses and provided the appropriate “steering” to make certain they stayed on course. He was a great humanitarian and a good friend. He will be missed by his colleagues, employees and alums.
— Wally Griffin
During my time at Jones Intercable, my interactions with Glenn spoke volumes to the kind of man he was. One day as I struggled through a signal problem in Glenn’s office, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Glenn. He handed me a cup of coffee and said, “Take a break, Mike. You’re getting too wound up about this.” There I was, in my CEO’s office and he’s bringing me coffee. Glenn brushed aside my thanks for his courtesy and concern, and then told me to have a good day. A few years later, after knee-replacement surgery left me hobbling on crutches for a few weeks, Glenn stopped me outside of the Uplink to tell me “…get a second opinion if you’re not happy with your care. If the insurance won’t pay for it, we will.” When it came time for me to leave, Glenn told me what he had told so many others: “It’s about what’s best for you. You may leave us, but you will always belong.” Cable has lost one its best leaders. And those of us who are Jones alumni have lost a friend and mentor. We miss you, Glenn.
— Mike Snyder
Glenn Jones was one of the most special friends in our lives. Both Glenn and Dianne are always in our thoughts.
— Bernie and Toni Luskin
Those of us who knew and loved him, recognized that Glenn was one of those unforgettable characters. Toni and I have great affection for both Dianne and Glenn. We worked on many projects together. Most were efforts to bring his visions to reality. He was the best lawyer I ever worked with, and I say this because he had such extraordinary insight. Plus, I know Glenn to be among the fairest and most honorable friends I have had. Mind Extension University, Jones Education Networks, Jones International University, Jones Entertainment Group were all dreams who had their moment in time and personified the vision we shared.
Glenn generally did it his way…..and his way, was also my way. Toni and I will miss him.
— Bernard Luskin
I have endless memories, and even more gratitude, for having worked at a number of Glenn Jones’ companies. Glenn was truly a “captain of industry”. While he built many businesses, far more impactful than that, he built an organization of leaders, risk-takers, envelope pushers and dragon slayers. I was so fortunate to have stumbled into his company in 1985 and, through good times and bad, he always saw the possibilities of what could be, and never simply what was. I learned more, tried more and cared more in 13 years there than most people get to do in their entire careers. I am grateful for my last personal conversation with Glenn at our last Jones Companies “reunion” in April. I was gifted with the opportunity to tell Glenn exactly what was on my heart and how he had made me a better executive, entrepreneur, co-worker and subordinate. Jones Intercable was like a “business Camelot”: collegial, congenial, fair, fun, and daring. His legacy lives on in the thousands of people who went on to be better people because, once, they worked for him.
— Jim Honiotes
Glenn embodied being a “lifelong learner” and enabled so many others to achieve their dreams by bringing education to the desktop. He was a true visionary. I remember a speech he gave at one of our last company meetings at Jones Intercable down at the Broadmoor. He said something like: “My only regret is that I don’t have 25 more years to keep doing this, because technology has gotten so sophisticated — there’s so much more that can be done.” He set a high benchmark for the up-and-coming telecom generation.
— Jean Duane
My time at Jones Intercable was period of personal and professional growth far beyond what I could have imagined. Because of Glenn’s passion for learning and giving his associates the tools they needed to grow, including education, I realized my long-term dream of getting a Bachelor’s Degree; something that wouldn’t have happened without Glenn’s help. Glenn empowered people by helping them reach further and higher than they ever thought possible. His passion for people was also reflected in how he treated his associates on a day to day basis. One day as I struggled to fix a signal problem in his office, Glenn personally brought me a cup of coffee and told me to take a break. There I was in the office of one of Cable’s best known CEOs and he’s bringing me coffee. When it came time for me to move on, Glenn was as magnanimous as ever, telling me, “You may leave us, but you will always belong.” What an amazing and caring man Glenn was. The industry has lost one of its best. I offer my deepest condolences to all who knew him.
— Mike Snyder