Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 8

MSO Lifetime Achievement
Pat Esser may be exiting Cox
Communications at year's end, but
his impact will be felt long after he's
left the building.
When Pat Esser moved into the office of president for Cox Communications
in 2006 following the retirement of the late Jim Robbins,
he found a few things already waiting for him-his predecessor's
employee badge, a personal note of encouragement and a framed
photo of Robbins with a few hundred of his most senior executives
behind him.
Esser has kept them all in his office. The photograph is one of the
very first things he sees most mornings, evoking more than memories
of his fondness for Robbins as a leader. " It's never left my office
because some days you've got to remind yourself that all these
people are counting on you, " he says. " The chair you sit in is not
your chair. You've been privileged to sit in this chair. "
After 15 years leading Cox Communications, Esser's getting ready
to retire with CMO Mark Greatrex poised to move into that chair. He
won't say what sort of personal effects he may leave his successor,
but it is clear he's passing on a company that is an industry
leader in customer care and a trailblazer for business services that
continues to make aggressive investment in other sectors, including
cloud offerings, telecom infrastructure and home healthcare. One of
the largest deals under his tenure is the still-pending acquisition of
the commercial enterprise segment of fiber infrastructure provider
Segra, reported to be in the $3 billion range.
" Once you start creating access for residential or commercial
customers, you start to build expertise in adjacent areas and you can
see emerging sectors that we want to fund, " explains Esser, who
had CEO added to his president title last year. Investments under his
leadership have included regional fiber companies, home healthcare
firm Trapollo and edge computing firm StackPath.
Don't take Cox's business expansion to mean Esser is down on
cable, though. He's been a part of the industry for more than 40
years, joining Cox's Hampton Roads, Va., system in 1979 as director
of programming. He still sees plenty of runway in cable's robust
network. " There are as many things on the horizon brewing in front
of us as there have ever been in my career, " he says. " I don't care
if you want to look at things like how we build more capacity with
multi-gig speeds or symmetrical speeds and what that broadband
network will enable. Or if you look at things like the Internet of
Things... I could just go down the line on how we will continue to
diversify and expand into adjacent areas. "
And yes, that broadening of the business will include a mobile offering
at Cox. " There have been teams that have been working on that
for years for us. You don't just wave a wand and get into the wireless
8
CablefaxTopOps.com
business, but we hopefully
will have something
to announce very soon, "
he says.
The timing of Esser's exit
may coincide with COVID-19,
but it's unrelated.
This is the target date he
had discussed with Cox
Enterprises CEO Alex Taylor
for years. " I just think it's
the right time for a change,
and we have people
ready, " Esser says. " It's a
really healthy time for the
business. We are entering
a lot of new spaces, a lot of
exciting spaces. It's a good
time for the next leader to
be in place for that, and
the senior team and group
of leaders we have in the
company are very, very strong. "
The people at Cox are foremost in his mind-and that's something
that has come from the top. A couple years before Esser was named
president of the company, Cox Enterprises reached a $8.35 billion
deal to take Cox Communications private. The exec remembers
receiving a weekend phone call from then-Cox Enterprises CEO Jim
Kennedy about the decision. " He said... 'I want you to know why I'm
doing it. I know we have these incredible products, and I know we
have the winning network. But I'm betting on you, and I'm betting on
the people that come to work here every day because that's what I
really believe in,' " recalls Esser. " I have never forgotten that phone
call... and it imprinted on me what's important here. "
" If you work in this industry, you
are part of the fabric of America.
You can never forget that. "
During his time at Cox, Esser has been a part of numerous organizations
outside the company, ranging from NCTA to the Boys & Girls
Clubs of America. And with each, he's been heavily engaged. " I want
it to be something I care about, and I'm actively involved in or it's not
something I'm going to be a part of. Otherwise, you don't need me
there. You just need a check from me, and that's very different, " he
says.
For years, Cox has been a partner of the Boys & Girls Club, a group
Esser became intimately familiar with because his brother Frank Esser
was director of the Cedar Valley, Iowa, club from 1985 to 1995.
" Pat Esser is the most dedicated Cox employee that is working on
September 2021
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Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/accessintelligence/CableFax/cablefax-june-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/accessintelligence/CableFax/cablefax-april-2019
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https://www.nxtbook.com/accessintelligence/CableFax/cablefax-june-2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/accessintelligence/CableFax/cablefax-november-2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/accessintelligence/CableFax/cablefax-september-2017
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