JR Shaw (1934-2020)

Year Born: 
1934
Year Died: 
2020

Pioneer

Shaw, JR (1934- )

James Robert (JR) Shaw was born in 1934 in Brigden, an agricultural community near Sarnia, Ontario. He obtained a B.A. in Business Administration from Michigan State University. 

His father Francis saw more exciting worlds beyond his farming acreage, and encouraged JR and his brother Leslie to expand into the pipeline aspects of the local oil industry.  Leslie was to make a career in this field, and JR did initially move out to Edmonton in 1961 to run one of the off-shoots of the pipeline operation, but he soon had his eye on the potential growth of the cable industry, investing in a London, Ont. Cable system in 1953.   In 1966 he founded Capital Cable Television Co Ltd, but it was not until 1970 that he received his first cable licence. The first Shaw Cable customer was connected in Sherwood Park, Alberta, in 1971, and when the company celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1996, close to 1.5 million customers were receiving Shaw cable service. In that same year, hi-speed internet service became available to Shaw customers in Calgary. Shaw digital phone service was introduced in 2005. 

As the company’s core cable business grew to include radio and television station ownerships (the first radio station acquisitions were in 1987), high-speed internet services, digital telephone systems, telecommunications and satellite direct-to home services, its name changed to Shaw Cablesystems Ltd in 1983 and to Shaw Communications Inc. in 1993.  Shaw’s cable acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s included properties across the country, but exchanges with Rogers in 1994 and again in 2001 restructured the company’s cable holdings primarily to western Canada, plus a few systems in northern Ontario.  

JR’s son Jim joined the company in 1982 in construction and cable installation, and became CEO in 1998, when JR became Executive Chairman. Siblings Heather, Julie and Brad had already joined the family business, and when JR created Corus Entertainment in 1999 to run the Shaw radio and television properties as a separate entity, Heather was appointed as its Executive Chair. 

While his family began to take care of day-to-day business, JR continued to keep a watchful eye on things from the company’s executive office in Calgary.  He was Chairman of the Board of Suncor from 2001 to 2007, and was past chair of the Board of Governors of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. In 2007, NAIT recognized JR’s contributions by establishing the JR Shaw School of Business, and awarding him the NAIT Honorary Diploma.  Earlier, he was on the Board of Directors and the Strategic Planning Committee of the Canadian Cable Television Association.  In 2000 he was honoured with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Gold Ribbon Award for Broadcast Excellence.  Later, he became Executive Chair of Shaw Communications.

His community, charity and philanthropic activities, as well his business achievements, earned him accolades from many directions. In 1970, JR’s father Francis established the Shaw Foundation, of which JR is now President and Director. The Shaw Bears for Children in Distress program was introduced in 1989, and to date well over 200,000 bears have been distributed. In 2002 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of his excellence in business and outstanding community involvement, and in 2005 he received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. 

JR has had three Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees conferred on him, by the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.  He was also a recipient of the Ted Rogers Snr./Velma Graham Award.   

On September 6th 2013, the Ontario Association of Broadcasters announced that  at its annual meeting on November 7th the Association  would present its 2013 OAB Hall of Fame Award to JR Shaw. 

JR Shaw died on March 23rd 2020.  He was 85.

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