Born in 1870 in Jacksonburg, Ohio, our founder James Middleton Cox came of age in a time of great change — the telephone, phonograph and light bulb were invented in his first 10 years of life. From humble roots, Cox and his six older siblings worked in the fields of their family’s farm from sunrise to sunset in the summer. Throughout his life Cox loved the outdoors, saying that “life and hard work in the open had given me health, agility and endurance.”
In 1898, at the age of 28, Cox borrowed $26,000 from friends and family and purchased the Dayton Evening News (now the Dayton Daily News). He added a women’s society editor and increased the Associated Press service to include national, international and sports news. It was Cox’s belief that this was “the people’s paper.”
In his late 30s, while working in publishing, Cox was persuaded to run for Congress. He won the 1908 election and represented Ohio from 1909 to 1913. He was then elected governor of Ohio, serving from 1913 to 1915 and again from 1917 to 1921. In 1920, Cox was the Democratic presidential nominee and chose Franklin D. Roosevelt as his running mate. Though they lost the 1920 election, both made their marks as Roosevelt later became president and Governor Cox focused his energy on growing his newspapers.
Cox often said that he had printers’ ink in his blood, and 1923 marked the beginning of his company’s vigorous growth. His passion for serving his community with quality news grew when he acquired several newspapers, four radio stations and two television stations. This growth was the start of what we know today as Cox Enterprises.
When Governor Cox purchased The Atlanta Journal in 1939, he also gained “The South’s First Radio Station,” WSB, which had gone on air in 1922. Call letters for radio stations were often translated into bits of verbiage, and when listeners were asked to send in suggestions, the winner was “Welcome South Brother.” By the time Cox took over, WSB was a 50,000-watt powerhouse that could be heard throughout the United States. Pictured: WSB announcer’s booth in the 1930s.
WHIO, the first Cox radio station and first station in Ohio’s Miami Valley, went on air in Dayton on February 9, 1935. The Governor’s son, Jim Cox Jr., was fascinated with radio, a new technology of the time, and is credited with leading his father into the medium. Governor Cox gave an eloquent on-air dedication, saying, “May I express this christening sentiment — that the voice of this Miami Valley empire will always be an instrument of dignity, culture and practical service.”
Cox purchased The Atlanta Journal in 1939, writing: “I wouldn’t know of another property in America I would want outside of this one. Georgia is a great empire with an inescapable progress of agricultural development. That appeals strongly to me.” He later called purchasing The Journal “the rounding out of a dream.” Pictured, The front page of The Journal from December 18, 1939, with a telegraph from Franklin D. Roosevelt welcoming Cox to Atlanta.
WSB-TV On Air
At 8 p.m. on September 29, 1948, television made its debut in Atlanta via Cox’s WSB-TV, which called itself the “Eyes of the South.” Atlanta-area residents began buying television sets four months before WSB-TV started broadcasting, and approximately 2,500 receivers were in homes when the station went on air.
The first television station in Ohio’s Miami Valley, WHIO-TV in Dayton, went on air on February 23, 1949. At the opening ceremony, Jim Cox Jr., who had led his father into broadcasting, talked about TV’s “tremendous possibilities.” When coaxial cable arrived, allowing for high-frequency transmission of television signals, WHIO-TV was “online” to the nation a few months later.
Governor Cox purchased The Atlanta Constitution in 1950, just a few days before his 80th birthday. He assured Ralph McGill, editor, and Jack Tarver, associate editor: “I bought your paper because I wanted you. I want The Constitution to grow and I want you fellows to build it.” McGill said Governor Cox didn’t believe in imposing overall news and editorial policies on his newspapers, thinking it would be “contrary to the public good and bad business.” Pictured: Front page of The Atlanta Constitution after Cox purchased it.
Three generations gathered for the dedication of the new Dayton Daily News building in Ohio: Jim Cox Jr., (photo, left) Governor James M. Cox (center) and his grandson, Jim Kennedy (right).
After Governor Cox passed away, his son Jim Cox Jr. moved easily into the position of leadership within the family-owned Cox organization. He already had direct responsibility for the company’s radio and television stations, and played a growing role in watching over the seven Cox newspapers. It wasn’t long before many company executives, first in conversations with each other and later with him, referred to Jim Cox Jr. simply as “the boss.”
Jim Cox Jr. purchased three cable systems in central Pennsylvania — which combined had 11,800 subscribers. Cox was one of the earliest broadcasters to embrace community antenna TV (later called cable television), which provided rural communities with better reception and a wider selection of channels. Cox Cable experienced explosive growth in the 1970s, and in the 1980s cable became more popular as Home Box Office (HBO) started offering films and made-for-cable entertainment, and sporting events moved to cable programming.
In 1964, Cox’s broadcasting and cable businesses became Cox Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and opened for trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Cox’s newspapers remained a private company and operated separately from CBC. Pictured left to right: Jim Cox Jr. (chairman), Leonard Reinsch (president) and Keith Funston (NYSE president).
Cox’s cable systems were consolidated into a new company, Cox Cable Communications, Inc. (CCC). Cox Broadcasting Corporation held the majority of the stock. By 1971, CCC had become the second-largest company in the cable TV industry.
Cox purchased Manheim Auto Auction, a small operation in Manheim, Pa., in 1968. Cox became aware of the fledgling auto auction industry through its ownership of the “Black Book” used car price guides. Though a departure from the company’s media properties, the move was in line with Cox’s criteria for acquisitions: an emphasis on customer service (rather than inventory), high operating margins and an industry with growth potential.
The Passing of Jim Cox Jr.
After a lengthy illness, Jim Cox Jr. died October 27, 1974, at the age of 71. Under his 17-year stewardship the company grew and prospered, becoming truly national in scope. His widow, Betty Gage Cox, said one of her husband’s greatest gifts was finding and supporting talented people. “He had this uncanny ability for picking the right man for the right job,” an associate said of Cox Jr., who was known as “the boss.” He was laid to rest next to his father in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1982, to reflect the growth of the cable industry and to underscore the importance of transforming broadcasting, Cox Broadcasting Corporation changed its name to Cox Communications, Inc. With this change, the board elected William A. Schwartz, who noted, “Our position in expanding businesses … resulted in record revenues and earnings in 1982.” The new name came with a new home, as Cox Communications moved its new headquarters to an up-and-coming commercial center on the edge of Atlanta.
In 1985, Cox Enterprises, Inc. purchased Cox Communications for $75 per share. Cox Enterprises already owned or controlled roughly 40 percent of the communications company’s 28.2 million outstanding shares. The combined corporation, called Cox Enterprises, became the nation’s 13th largest media company. Before the merger, Cox Communications and Cox Enterprises ranked 19th and 21st, respectively. This event marked the end of 21 years of public ownership for Cox Communications, but gave shareholders a growth in market value from $43 million to more than $2.1 billion.
In 1988 then–Executive Vice President Jim Kennedy, grandson of Governor Cox, was promoted to CEO and chairman of CEI. Kennedy brought Cox into a new chapter of its history, and is noted for his efforts to increase diversity, his ability to handle the shifting technological landscape of the 1990s and further enhancing the company’s reputation. During his tenure, Cox Enterprises has increased its annual revenues from $1.8 billion to more than $20 billion.
AutoTrader.com launched in 1997 as a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. The effort was at the forefront of e-commerce, as the company offered services that helped consumers research, buy and sell cars online. Those looking to sell a car to a dealer could ask for offers from their local area, and dealers were able to use the wide net of data to further their businesses. In only three years, it became the number one online automotive classified website.
On August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina was barreling toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Cox leadership team knew employees would be affected but had no idea to what degree. On September 1, just 72 hours after the storm made landfall, Cox came together to create the Cox Employee Disaster Relief Fund. We secured our 501(c)(3) status and rallied employees to help their own. Within months the fund raised more than $2.7 million in donations from 4,700 employees, a company match, and support from vendors and industry colleagues.
In 2013, the fund was renamed the Cox Employee Relief Fund (CERF) to reflect the expansion of the Fund to include costs for injury or illness and loss of a family member. In 2020, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the fund, and CERF continues to grow.
In 2005, Manheim announced the opening of offices in China, with one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. Additionally, they opened offices in England, Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. The global expansion, set in motion 30 years prior with openings in Canada, continued with Manheim offices on nearly every continent.
Celebrating Barbara Cox
Barbara Cox, the Governor’s youngest child, passed away in May 2007 in her home in Honolulu at the age of 84. She was chairman of Dayton Newspapers and a member of the Cox Enterprises Board of Directors. Spending most of her adult life in Hawaii, she helped found La Pietra – Hawaii School for Girls and served on the board of directors of Hawaii Preparatory Academy and Children’s Hospital of Honolulu. An outdoor enthusiast like her father, Barbara oversaw all aspects of a 7,500-acre ranch on Hawaii’s Big Island and enjoyed skiing, tennis and equestrian events.
In 2007, Chairman Jim Kennedy formalized the company’s sustainability efforts through Cox Conserves. The program engages each of our major subsidiaries, Cox Communications, Cox Automotive and Cox Media group, by asking them to conserve the natural resources that are most essential to their business, and encourages our 50,000 employees and their families to adopt eco-friendly practices in their lives and to make a difference through community service. Cox Conserves’ primary focus areas are energy conservation, water conservation, waste diversion and recycling, and community engagement.
As Cox Media Group (CMG) restructured to accommodate its television, radio and newspaper businesses under one umbrella, CMG developed cross-platform opportunities for advertisers across all three mediums. Additionally, it built advertising opportunities within its internet platforms as a way to expand revenue sources. CMG was able to offer benefits to both internal constituents and external customers by leveraging its businesses’ shared research, sales and digital resources.
In 2014, Cox Enterprises brought all of its automotive-related businesses — including Manheim, AutoTrader.com, Kelley Blue Book, vAuto and NextGear Capital — together under the newly created Cox Automotive subsidiary. Together, the business units within Cox Automotive are transforming the way the world buys, sells and owns cars. Cox Automotive is the world’s leader in vehicle remarketing services and digital marketing and software solutions for automotive dealers and consumers.
Today, Cox Enterprises employs approximately 55,000 employees in 300 separate businesses. Currently, three generations of Cox family members serve on the company’s board of directors; and the great-grandson of Governor Cox, Alex Taylor, assumed the role of CEO in 2018. The various community, employee and environmental programs developed over more than a century would surely make Governor Cox proud of the legacy he left behind.
A Next Generation Leader
Jan.1, 2018, marked the beginning of a new era when Alex Taylor, a fourth-generation Cox family member, took over as president and chief executive officer of Cox Enterprises.
Alex is committed to advancing Cox businesses through innovation, smart investments and an unfailing dedication to its employees and communities.
Celebrating 120 Years
In August 2018, Cox Enterprises celebrated its 120-year anniversary with its employees and community through stories and images.
On August 15, 1898, James M. Cox purchased the Dayton Evening News (now the Dayton Daily News) and on August 22, the first issue of the Dayton Daily News was publshed under Cox’s ownership.
As part of the celebration, a timeline of milestones was created and shared across social media and Cox’s digital platforms. On campus, employees enjoyed a slideshow videos of historic moments and exhibits in the Discovery Center.
Cox Auto Establishes Mobility Solutions Group
In August 2018, Cox Automotive brought together its investments and solutions supporting the future of mobility with the formation of a new business division: Mobility Solutions Group.
The new business division is focused on mobility as a service, which allows Cox Auto to quickly capitalize on the shift from vehicle ownership to usage.
Venturing Into Esports
Cox Enterprises partnered with Province, Inc. to form Atlanta Esports Ventures (AEV), a joint venture that owns and operates the Atlanta Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues. These professional esports leagues are fast-paced competitions designed for engaging gameplay and spectator experiences. Atlanta’s teams are the Atlanta Reign (Overwatch) and Atlanta FaZe (Call of Duty)
This exponentially growing industry offers Cox an opportunity to diversify its portfolio.
Cox Closes on Cox Media Group Sale
Cox Enterprises completed the sale of Cox Media Group (CMG) to affiliates of Apollo Global Management, Inc. in December 2019. The sale included Cox’s portfolio of television and radio stations, Ohio assets, CoxReps and Gamut national advertising businesses.
Cox maintains a minority stake in the company, which includes Northwest Broadcasting and continues to operate under the name “Cox Media Group.”
Building a Better Future with Social Startups
In January 2020, the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars kicked off its inaugural class. This program supports startup companies focused on addressing social and environmental challenges.
Leading this program is one of the ways Cox brings its Purpose — to Empower People Today to Build a Better Future for the Next Generation — to life.
Celebrating Anne Cox Chambers
On Jan. 31, 2020 Anne Cox Chambers, daughter of Governor James M. Cox and Cox Enterprises board member, passed away peacefully in her Atlanta home at the age of 100.
Mrs. Chambers was a community leader, passionate supporter of the arts, champion of animal welfare and a generous philanthropist. For 33 years, she co-owned Cox Enterprises with Barbara Cox.
A longtime member of Cox’s board of directors and past chairwoman of Atlanta Newspapers, she also served as ambassador to Belgium from 1977 to 1981. She was a generous donor and passionate supporter of the arts, serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and enriching the lives of countless others.
Bringing Back a Piece of History
Following a federal court decision that prohibits a single owner from operating both a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market, Cox Enterprises purchased the Ohio newspapers (the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield News-Sun and the JournalNews) back from Cox Media Group (CMG) in February 2020.
“Dayton, Ohio is a big part of the Cox DNA … it is with great excitement that we continue publishing these papers as we have for more than 100 years,” said Alex Taylor, president and CEO of Cox Enterprises.
Alex Taylor Named Chairman
Cox Enterprises announced that Alexander C. Taylor has been named chairman and CEO of Cox Enterprises, effective Jan. 1, 2022, with former Chairman James C. Kennedy moving to the role of chairman emeritus. Kennedy remains a member of the Cox Enterprises Board of Directors and continues his role chairing the James M. Cox Foundation.
During his time as President and CEO, Taylor led the company’s core operating businesses in broadband, automotive services and media through a significant transformation, while also strengthening its employee-centric and customer-focused culture.
Growing and Evolving
Cox made a series of strategic investments to strengthen the company and put it in a better position to serve the customers of tomorrow.
In October, Cox Communications acquired the commercial services segment of Segra, one of the largest privately held fiber infrastructure providers in the U.S. The investment represented one of the largest in Cox Communications history and supports the company’s ongoing focus on strategic infrastructure investments and its continued commitment to the business services market.
Cox Enterprises acquired BrightFarms, the indoor farming company and provider of locally grown packaged salads, in August. The move solidified BrightFarms’ leadership in the indoor agriculture space and provided a strong, stable foundation committed to accelerating growth with partner retailers.
To bolster its operations for the future, Cox Automotive acquired Fyusion and Dickinson Fleet Services. Fyusion is a computer vision company and leader in immersive vehicle imaging solutions for automotive and other industries. Dickinson Fleet Services is the leading mobile maintenance provider for medium and heavy-duty trucks and trailers in North America.