Title: President, Comcast Cable; COO, Comcast Corp.
Last Year: #2
Education: Colgate U, BA; Harvard Business School, MBA
Why Him? As president of the country’s largest cable company, Burke simply couldn’t be anything other than our No. 1. As we know all too well in cable, size does matter. And Burke this year oversaw the massive Comcast presence of 100K employees, 24% growth and sales of $30mln. It’s a quantum leap from the 4.5mln customers Comcast served when Burke joined the company in ’98, and an impressive showing against the backdrop of an economic recession. Despite a slowdown in both basic and Internet subscriber growth, Comcast managed to exceed Wall Street expectations for Q3, posting a 30% rise in earnings, with net income reaching $771mln, up from $560mln a year ago. Phone revenue leaped 44% during the Q and revenue for Comcast’s programming segment — E!, Style, Golf Channel, Versus and G4 — ticked up 5%.
Busman’s Holiday? While ’08 held many highs for Comcast — its shares were down a modest 14% in mid-Nov as other MSOs were falling twice as fast — one notable embarrassment was when word leaked that the MSO paid and bused in "seat warmers" to take up space during a contentious FCC hearing on its network management tactics. Some apparently fell asleep (not a crime during FCC sessions). Even worse, more than 100 people were turned away for lack of seats.
Analysts have called cable more recession-proof than the competition, and Comcast seems on solid ground as it braces for a tough ’09. Holding steady would be considered a win.