Ted Rogers was the closest living thing Canada had to Rupert Murdoch, or at least the image of a full-blooded media mogul prepared to bet the bank on the future no one had yet seen.
He built an empire with radio and television, but accelerated his holdings by recognizing how coaxial cable would serve communities with broadcast signals and how cellular technology would offer telephony. On those latter two points, he was assailed repeatedly as a zealot intent on melting down hard-earned corporate value. His critics had momentarily glee when the balance sheet looked grim, but Rogers always had the last laugh when the market caught up with the technologies he believed in. Along the way he cultivated two of the country's most successful magazines, Maclean's and Chatelaine, along with a string of stations that stretch the country.
I never worked for Rogers but met him probably two dozen times at events or interminable regulatory hearings. He absorbed everything anyone said but always had a better line in return. Those who worked for him worked hard, but he was a clear-spoken boss and those who worked for him liked working hard because of that. He came from politics and never lost that partisanship in business, but he was notoriously generous in victory or defeat and all points between. Although I hadn't tried it recently, the last time I lived in Toronto he still listed his number in the book and answered his home phone.
He bet part of his bank again early this decade when he rescued the moribund Toronto Blue Jays and the dispirited stadium that housed them and rejuvenated the team and its home. His congenitally weak heart gave out on him last night.