Craig McCaw’s father Elroy was a broadcasting magnate who bought and sold TV and radio stations. This brought in wealth but also incurred significant debt. His father entered the cable television business in the 1960s and Craig who was born in Centralia, Washington in 1949, along with his three brothers worked as linemen and door-to-door salesmen.
Upon the death of Elroy the only business left not sold to pay off debt was the small Centralia cable company. Craig took control of the company and rebuilt it. McCaw Cable Television became the 20th largest cable carrier in the U.S. by the 1980s.
While a successful achievement Craig made an even bigger achievement in the cellular telephone industry. Craig entered the lottery for cellular licenses in the early 1980s. Aside from this he also approached other lottery winners and bought their cellular rights. He aggressively expanded in the cellular business resorting to borrowing against and selling shares in the cable operation.
It placed Craig’s business as a competitive nationwide cellular carrier before the big landline telephone industry took notice. He was able to seize the opportunity with literally no one noticing. He and his brothers sold their cable company after acquiring MCI’s cellular business in 1986. In 1994 the McCaw brothers sold McCaw Cellular to AT&T Corporation for $11.5 billion.
A billionaire, Craig has ventured into other businesses including founding high-speed wireless provider Clearwire. He recently got into the news paying $35 million for a classic car. He is also selling his 780 acre private Canadian island for $75 million; the trappings of a successful man who was willing to take risks.