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The Life & Legacy of Bill Daniels
— BILL DANIELS
To all who knew him,
Bill Daniels truly was larger than life.
BILL DANIELS WAS A BORN ENTREPRENEUR, widely regarded as one of the greatest business visionaries of the 20th Century. He helped to pioneer an industry that is an important part of our daily lives. He was also generous beyond measure and showed great compassion for his fellow man. In the final years of his life, Bill Daniels laid the plans for his foundation — the Daniels Fund — which follows his direction for "making life better...one individual at a time".
Bill was a remarkable man, and he achieved phenomenal success through a combination of vision, hard work, determination, and treating others with kindness. He would also say that on many occasions, he was "damned lucky" as well.
Bill was born in Greeley, Colorado in 1920. As a child he lived with his family in Omaha, Nebraska and later, Council Bluffs, Iowa. The family moved to Hobbs, New Mexico when Bill was a teenager, and he attended the New Mexico Military Institute in nearby Roswell. As a young man, he was the undefeated New Mexico Golden Gloves Champion for two consecutive years.
In World War II and the Korean Conflict, Bill was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and held the rank of Full Commander by the time he returned from Korea. Among his many honors were the Bronze Star he received for making repeated trips into the burning USS Intrepid carrying injured shipmates to safety. The final chapter of Bill's military career took place in Corpus Christi, Texas as he provided flight instruction during the Navy's transition to jet-propelled aircraft. Bill instructed some of the Navy's best pilots, several of whom would go on to form the Blue Angels Jet Demonstration Team.
After the Navy, Bill drove up and down the Rocky Mountain region looking for the right place to open his own insurance business. He settled on Casper, Wyoming, and within a short time, built a profitable agency with a solid reputation. In 1952, during what would have been a routine trip from Hobbs to Casper, he stopped for a sandwich at Murphy's Bar in Denver. Bill had no idea the course of his life — and many millions of others — was about to change.
A small black-and-white television was mounted over the bar showing The Wednesday Night Fights, broadcast live from New York City. It was the first time Bill had encountered television, and he was captivated. When he returned to Casper, he learned that many remote cities and towns across the nation did not have access to television. In Casper's case, the culprit was a mountain range that blocked Denver's broadcast signals. Where others might find disappointment, Bill saw opportunity. He started his first cable venture in Casper, Wyoming in 1953.
As one of the early pioneers in cable television, Bill would go on to own and operate hundreds of cable TV systems across the country. The firm he founded — Daniels & Associates (now RBC Capital Markets) — remains a leader in providing investment banking services to media and technology companies. Bill's leadership attracted numerous high-tech and communications companies to the Rocky Mountain region.
While Bill was widely known and respected for his innovative leadership in the cable and sports industries, he received even greater accolades for his philanthropic endeavors. He believed that each of us has a responsibility to help those in need and to show compassion for people challenged by their current circumstances. During his lifetime, Bill made countless charitable contributions — many of them anonymously — and gave back to the community in creative and meaningful ways.
An avid sports fan, Bill was one of the first in the cable industry to focus on sports programming, giving rise to today’s highly popular regional sports networks. He founded Prime Ticket Sports Network, and sold it roughly a decade later for a personal profit of nearly $200 million. He sponsored heavyweight boxing champions, served as president of the American Basketball Association, was a founder of the United States Football League, and was an owner of several professional sports teams, including the Utah Stars and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Among Bill’s most notable philanthropic projects were his groundbreaking efforts in education. Recognizing the value of learning financial responsibility at a young age, Bill founded Young Americans Bank in 1987. The bank provides a full range of banking services to children and young adults with the intention of providing the knowledge and experience they will need to prosper in our free enterprise system. Young Americans Bank remains the world’s only FDIC-insured, state-chartered commercial bank exclusively for young people.
Once his bank for kids was fully operational, Bill turned his attention to another personal concern. He felt that greater educational effort — particularly at the college level — should be placed on integrity, ethics, and proper personal conduct. He addressed this by donating more than $20 million to the University of Denver's business school to reengineer the core curriculum with integrated instruction on values such as honesty, accountability, treating people properly, appearance and dress, respectful communication, and giving back to the community. In 1994, the business school was renamed the Daniels College of Business in Bill's honor, and has gained national prominence for its ethics-based curriculum.
With his plane, Cablevision Tool, Bill set a new round-the-world speed record for business class jets while raising $300,000 for youth education. He offered his 24,000 square foot Denver home, Cableland, to area charities and nonprofits for events and fundraisers at no charge dozens of times per year. He later donated the house to the City of Denver, and Cableland remains Denver's Official Mayoral Residence. Bill was a supporter of dozens of local and national organizations serving young people and those in need.
Bill brought his unique style to all his philanthropic endeavors. He had a very personal concern for, and involvement with, people and families in need and the organizations dedicated to helping them. Bill did more than simply sign donation checks. He sought out and interacted with those who needed help. Bill's public support of charitable causes served as inspiration to others. For Bill, the strength of a community can be measured by how its citizens help those who are vulnerable and struggling. He devoted time and attention to helping people from all walks of life build happier, healthier, and more productive lives. He wrote, “I am for the underdog, the homeless, the hungry... for those who need a second chance.”