National Show: Alex Netchvolodoff

Apr 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

For Alex “Netch” Netchvolodoff, senior VP of public policy for Cox Enterprises, it’s partly an accident of birth that he is being honored with a Vanguard Award for Government & Community Relations this year for his contributions to the cable TV industry as the top Washington lobbyist for Cox Enterprises.

He and his longtime friend and political mentor-former Sen. Jack Danforth, R-Mo.-were born two days apart in St. Louis in 1936, and were even crib mates in the nursery at the same hospital.

“My mother said I was the prettier one,” Mr. Netchvolodoff said.

The two were schoolmates through high school, then roommates in the class of 1958 at Princeton University.

After Sen. Danforth was elected attorney general of Missouri in 1968, Mr. Netchvolodoff went to work in Sen. Danforth’s office, taking such a dramatic pay cut from his previous job as a general merchandise manager for a St. Louis department store that his former boss “offered to help pay for my psychiatric care,” Mr. Netchvolodoff deadpanned.

He served as Sen. Danforth’s campaign manager in his first bid for the U.S. Senate in 1976, and followed his friend to Washington after he was elected.

Over the next 15 years Mr. Netchvolodoff served the senator in a variety of capacities, including stints as his chief of staff and as staff director of the Senate Commerce Committee.

After Sen. Danforth was re-elected to the Senate in 1988, Mr. Netchvolodoff said, he told the lawmaker it was time for him to move on.

While Mr. Netchvolodoff had been focused on politics, it had fallen on his wife, Carol, to help put their two children through college and graduate school on the money she earned selling real estate.

“It made it possible for me to lollygag around the Senate with my best friend [Sen. Danforth],” Mr. Netchvolodoff said.

Mr. Netchvolodoff accepted an offer to set up a Washington office for Cox in 1991, a decision he now regards as one of the best he ever made.

“It’s not just a good company. It’s a great company,” he said. “Cox Enterprises is one of the most caring, entrepreneurial and exciting companies you could ever hope to go to.”

Among his major contributions to the cable TV industry was lobbying that led to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated cable TV rates and cleared the way for cable to get into new businesses, including telephony and broadband Internet access services-businesses Cox has aggressively pursued.

The company mantra, according to Mr. Netchvolodoff, was that “Competition is preferable to regulation, and the way to create competition is to take down the barriers of entry.”

Aside from its stake in cable, Cox also has major interests in newspapers; broadcast stations; Mannheim Auctions, the world’s largest auto auction facility; and AutoTrader.com, a leading automotive Internet sales site.

“He’s had one of the hardest jobs in Washington, representing cable and broadcasters and the other far-flung aspects of the Cox empire,” said Bert Carp, a veteran cable TV industry lobbyist with the firm Williams & Jensen.

“There’s hardly any aspect of government policy that doesn’t affect our company in a fairly massive manner,” Mr. Netchvolodoff said.

The Vanguard Award comes as a career capstone for Mr. Netchvolodoff, who plans to retire at the end of this year and said the award for government and community relations comes as a surprise. “I don’t know why I was selected,” he said.

Barbara York, senior VP of industry affairs for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said: “He’s the epitome of the description for that award.”