John Malone: Oral And Video Collection Interview

John Malone: Oral And Video Collection Interview

The John Malone Complex – A Study in Financial Brilliance

John Malone: Yeah, I was born and raised in Milford, Connecticut. My mom and dad were products of the depression, so they were very conservative, worried about the world coming to an end. My dad was ultimately a vice-president at GE and then left and started his own small electronics company that ultimately did reasonably well and went public in the ’60s. He was probably the major influence on me, very academic, Calvinist, but very strong influence. He was an electrical engineer. So I grew up with engineering at the dinner table and he had a shop out back where he was constantly playing with stuff. He was in radar development during the war and then after the war he was in charge of television set receiver development for General Electric, and I can remember my earliest days in the old barn behind our house he would have all his engineering crew out there working on TV set development because GE was under a strike and they couldn’t get into the major plant in Bridgeport. So they were all over in our backyard working on these early TV sets, and so I grew up with television, working on some of the old projection TV sets when I was 6 and 7 years old. You know, changing tubes and doing that kind of stuff. Milford was a little bit of a tough blue-collar town and my folks got afraid I was falling in with the wrong sorts, so they packed me off to a day school in New Haven, Connecticut, Hopkins Grammar School, which actually is, I think, the second oldest school in the country. It was founded in 1660 and that was pretty much an English day school type of education, very good, very strong prep school. Still to this day an excellent school, and from there I went to Yale and thought I wanted to be pre-med and then decided engineering was easier and so I went through Yale and got degrees in electrical engineering and economics. I was in love all through that period, Tryg, so the last thing I wanted to do was go to work so I looked around as to where I could continue my education and be paid for it, and in those days there were really only three organizations that did that sort of thing. One of the three was Bell Laboratories, so I actually went to work for Bell Labs, which was an AT&T enterprise at the time, and they sent me off to get my master’s in operations research, all expenses paid, plus a salary, which is very nice. So I did that for a year, came back to Bell Labs, did various projects there, studied the foreign language requirements for the Ph.D., took some time and picked up some additional coursework and then ultimately went back, once again at Bell Labs expense, and got my doctorate at Johns Hopkins in operations research and computer science, which was just starting to be dimly a subject area at the time. So that was sort of the educational background and then I went back to Bell Labs and was essentially somewhat, you would say, in the science of computer science for a couple of years. I worked on a few things that were of interest; one of them was video telephony, which was quite early and of course concluded, like everybody else, we didn’t have enough bandwidth. That was in the late ’60s, mid to late ’60s. I also worked on a project in economics for the Bell System, which was sort of a theoretical study of the behavior of a corporation subject to the kind of regulation that they were subject to. It was a mathematical treatise and ended up submitting that to the FCC. At the time, AT&T was fighting off the theory that they were over capitalizing because they were rate regulated.

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Read the full transcript here.