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Shaw Communications founder JR Shaw, seen here in 2007 at his home in Calgary, has died at 85.

TODD KOROL/The Globe and Mail

JR Shaw, the founder and executive chairman of Shaw Communications Inc., died on Monday at the age of 85.

“My family and I are at a loss for words and are deeply saddened at JR’s passing,” his son Brad Shaw, the chief executive officer of Shaw Communications, said in a statement Tuesday.

“JR was the founder and leader of our company, but he was also an exceptional husband, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His legacy of love and compassion for people will live on for generations.”

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JR started the business in 1966 when he launched a startup cable provider called Capital Cable Television Co. Ltd. Cable television was just beginning to take off at the time.

In 1970, he won his first broadcasting licence for Edmonton from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The following year, Capital Cable went on air for the first time and connected its first cable customer.

JR spent decades convincing other small cable operators to sell to him, mirroring what Ted Rogers, the founder of Rogers Communications Inc., was doing.

By 1994, JR and Mr. Rogers struck a deal to divide up the cable assets of Canadian communications company Maclean-Hunter, sparking an informal agreement that would see the companies carve up English Canada, with Rogers taking control of the East and Shaw dominating in the West. That deal eventually led to the two companies swapping cable assets in each other’s regions.

As Shaw Communications continued to grow, it built a radio and television broadcasting group that was eventually spun out as Corus Entertainment Inc. In 2016, Shaw acquired wireless provider Wind Mobile, later rebranding it as Freedom Mobile.

JR, meanwhile, stepped down as CEO in 1998, passing the reins to his eldest son, Jim Shaw. In 2010 Jim’s younger brother Brad took over as CEO, and Jim died in 2018 after a brief illness. JR remained active in the company, serving as executive chairman.

Brad will assume the executive chairman role on an interim basis, as per the company’s succession plan. The company said it plans to confirm this appointment at its coming board meeting on April 9.

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