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Westbrook, Kelvin R.

Kelvin R. Westbrook

1955

Corporate executive

President, CEO, and co-founder of Millennium Digital Media LLC, Kelvin R. Westbrook is one of the most sought-after executives and among the most influential black business leaders of the early twenty-first century. He sits on the boards of numerous high-profile companies, including the National Cable Satellite Corporation, better known as C-SPAN. In his early career Westbrook was a partner in the national law firm, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, and Walker, and he remains a member of the American Bar Association. Founded in 1997, Millennium Digital Media is one of the 30 largest cable providers in the United States in 2005, providing broadband services to over 150,000 customers in Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Oregon. A private company, in 2002 it posted sales of about $125 million.

Born in 1955, Westbrook was educated at the University of Washington, where he was awarded a degree in business administration in 1977, and at Harvard Law School, where he received his Juris Doctorate in 1982. He went on to work at the New York City-based national law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, and Walker, where he became a partner specializing in corporate mergers, acquisitions, and finance. He was co-chair of the firm's Telecommunications Practice Group, as well as being vice-chair of its recruiting committee and a member of its policy committee. He is married to Valerie Bell, a former senior counsel for the New York State Urban Development Corporation. They moved with their three children to St. Louis in 1997 when Millennium Digital Media was setting up its headquarters there. Since then Bell, a public policy expert, has become a full-time civic volunteer, applying her legal skills to community projects such as schools and healthcare facilities.

In 1993 Westbrook founded LEB Communications, Inc., his first commercial venture into the business of telecommunications. LEB negotiated deals with Charter Communications to manage cable television systems around the country. It was his experience with LEB and Charter that prompted Westbrook to branch out into the wider area of broadband communications. In 1997, along with John Brooks, Jeffrey Sanders, and Charles Payer, Jr., he founded Millennium Digital Media, a cable company providing broadband services such as high-speed internet access, cable television, and telephony. They began buying up cable companies around the country, starting with Baltimore-based North Arundel Cable, for a purchase price of around $108 million. Within seven years the company was one of the top 30 cable providers in the United States, with over 150,000 customers in four states. Operating out of three regional centers in Maryland, Michigan, and Washington, privately-owned Millennium Digital Media is headquartered in St. Louis.

The rapid growth of Millennium Digital Media has made Westbrook into a high-profile figure in American business. He has been an outspoken critic of the control wielded by program makers over cable operators and was one of few supporters prepared to speak out for Time Warner Cable in their contract dispute with ABC-TV in 2000. He has accepted offers of directorships from companies as diverse as Angelica Corporation, which offers textile rental and laundry services to the healthcare industry, and the Archer Daniels Midland Company, a global cereals processor and exporter. With his diverse interests and obvious talent for understanding businesses of different kinds, Westbrook is among the most successful black business leaders of his generation. His company Millennium Digital Media takes in over $125 million in sales each year and is expanding into new high-tech services, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), through deals with other companies. Un 2005 Millennium Digital Media looked set to become a major Web portal service provider as well as a cable company.

Each year since 2001 Westbrook has been featured by Black Enterprise magazine as the CEO of one the nation's 100 largest businesses owned by African Americans. Although he has been hugely successful in business, he has also devoted energy to community projects and charity work in his home town of St. Louis. Along with his wife Valerie Bell, Westbrook has campaigned for schemes to help improve wealth-creation opportunities for African Americans, as well as sitting on the boards of several schools and hospital groups in the St. Louis area. He is also a community volunteer on several other projects.

At a Glance

Born in 1955; married Valerie Bell; three children. Education: University of Washington, BA, Business Administration, 1977; Harvard Law School, JD, 1982. Religion : Christian.

Career: Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, and Walker, New York City, partner; LEB Communications, Inc., founder, president, and chairman, 1993-97; Millennium Digital Media, Clayton, MO, founder and CEO, 1997.

Selected memberships: American Bar Association; Business Program Advisory Council of Harris Stowe State College; Federal Communications Commission Advisory Committee for the Diversity of Communications in the Digital Age, 2004; board member: Millennium Digital Media; Archer Daniels Midland Company; Angelica Corporation; National Cable and Telecommunications Association; National Cable Satellite Corporation (C-SPAN); BJC HealthCare; Christian Hospital Northeast-Northwest; St. Louis Internship Program; and Chesterfield Day School.

Addresses: Office Millennium Digital Media, 120 S. Central Ave., Suite 150, Clayton, MO 63105.

Sources

Periodicals

Baltimore Business Journal, May 8, 1998.

Black Enterprise Magazine, June 2001, June 2002, June 2003, June 2004.

Forbes, June 12, 2000.

St Louis Business Journal, June 12, 2000 v20 i40 p2; January 31, 2003.

On-line

"Top of the List," St Louis Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2003/02/03/tidbits.html (January 5, 2005).

"The Next New Thing," NCTA The National Show 2004, http://cable2004.com/ncta2004/attendee/speakers.asp?Task=ShowDetails&SpeakerID=125 (January 5, 2005).

Chris Routledge

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