Telecom ‘visionary’ and founder of Shaw Communications dies at 85

JR Shaw, the founder of Shaw Communications, has died at age 85.

The Calgary visionary and pioneer of the telecommunications world died peacefully on Monday, the company said in a release on Tuesday.

Shaw founded Capital Cable Television Co. Ltd. in 1966, first launching in Edmonton. The company rapidly grew under Shaw’s leadership.

“My family and I are at a loss for words and are deeply saddened at JR’s passing,” his son, Brad Shaw, said in the company statement. “His legacy of love and compassion for people will live on for generations.”

JR Shaw stepped down from the CEO role in 1998, passing on the reins to his son, Jim Shaw. Brad Shaw took over in 2010 from Jim, who died in 2018.

Company founder JR Shaw, left, has died at age 85. He is picture here with his sons, Brad Shaw, centre, and the late Jim Shaw, right, at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary in 2012. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

In light of his father’s death, Brad Shaw will take over his role of executive chair of the board.

Today, Shaw Communications Inc. has more than seven million subscribers between cable, internet, phone, satellite and wireless service, mostly in Western Canada.

JR Shaw earned many accolades, including becoming an officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Alberta Order of Excellence and multiple honorary degrees.

He also started the Shaw Charity Classic, part of the PGA Champions Tour. The company says that fundraiser has earned more than $48 million for Alberta charities since 2013.

JR Shaw was awarded the Order of Canada in 2003. (Shaw Communications)

Notes of condolences flooded in on social media, including from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who on Twitter called Shaw one of the province’s “titans of business and philanthropy.”

Also on Twitter, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi recounted his first meeting with the “true Calgary business leader and pioneer.”

“I remember meeting him a few years ago and being struck by how incredibly smart he was and the very tough questions he asked,” the mayor said. “He will be deeply missed.”

‘Formidable competitor’

Shaw’s competitor Telus also issued a statement, saying its team was “deeply saddened” by his death.

“He was a true pioneer, an extraordinary leader and a formidable competitor,” wrote Telus CEO Darren Entwistle.

“There is no doubt that JR created an inspiring legacy that will endure in our industry, our communities, the province of Alberta and well beyond.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shaw family during this exceptionally difficult time.”

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association also called him an industry leader, and former B.C. premier Christy Clark reflected on her time as a Shaw board director.

“JR Shaw was one of the few great business titans who knit this country together,” Clark wrote on Twitter. “He showed us how to succeed while respecting competitors, caring about employees and giving back to communities.

“It was one of my life’s great privileges to work with him.”