Comcast's biography, now available to employees

Posted: April 24, 2012

Penned by the ghost writer behind popular autobiographies of Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and “Mayflower Madam” Sydney Biddle Barrows, An Incredible Dream, a self-published authorized corporate history, has been released by Comcast Corp.

The 424-page, 27-chapter book is being distributed to more than 100,000 Comcast and NBCUniversal employees and will become an orientation must-read for new hires. The book cover bears an image of Ralph Roberts, the lead company cofounder, now 92 years old, with arms open, seemingly embracing a crowd.

The book will not be available for sale to the public.

William Novak, whom the Los Angeles Times called “Ghost to the Stars” in a 1992 article, spent six years researching and writing the book. In addition to Iacocca and Barrows, Novak collaborated on books with Nancy Reagan, Oliver North, and Magic Johnson.

This work is neither a tell-all nor coffee-table ornamentation. The project was “about getting down the facts,” Comcast’s chief spokeswoman, D’Arcy Rudnay, said Monday. “When you think about the growth and the number of employees we have hired,” she said, “we are constantly being asked if we have a history or a document, and we didn’t have that.”

The project could help with Comcast’s image, which had been battered by poor customer service and service interruptions, and, more recently, by fears that the company is too politically and economically powerful.

David Neff, president of Neff Associates, a branding, imaging and advertising firm in Old City, called it a “424-page press kit” that will put the company’s “best face forward ... They have made great strides to overcome the negative perceptions in the marketplace.”

In recent years, Comcast rebranded its TV and Internet services as Xfinity and has reached out to customers through social media.

Marc Brownstein, president and chief executive officer of the Brownstein Group in Philadelphia, a brand-communications firm, said a book “can demystify the company.” A family-run enterprise can lose its identity as it becomes larger, he said, and a book helps explain enduring corporate values.

Comcast and NBCUniversal employees have the option of hardbound paper copy or e-book. The corporation has employment centers in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

An Incredible Dream: Ralph Roberts and the Story of Comcast began as Roberts’ autobiography but was widened to a corporate history after he reportedly was not interested in cooperating in depth on his personal story, according to company sources. Roberts founded the company along with Daniel Aaron and Julian Brodsky. His son, Brian, is now chairman and chief executive officer.

The book contains separate chapters on Roberts, Aaron and Brodsky and describes the company’s evolution from its humble roots as a single cable system in Mississippi to what it is today: the nation’s largest cable-TV distributor and its largest residential Internet provider, and one of the largest U.S. media companies, with more than $50 billion a year in revenue.

Publication was delayed for projects that were to be included as chapters: the construction of Comcast’s headquarters in Center City, which opened in 2008, and the acquisition of NBCUniversal, which closed in early 2011. The book’s release last week was timed, in part, around Ralph Roberts’ recent 92d birthday.

Other books about Comcast include Daniel Aaron and David A. Long’s 2001 Take the Measure of the Man: An American Success Story. In 2005, The Inquirer’s Joseph N. DiStefano published Comcasted: How Ralph and Brian Roberts Took Over America’s TV, One Deal at a Time.

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.

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