10 Things You Didn’t Know About Charles Dolan & Family

Charles Dolan, a pioneering figure in the world of cable broadcasting, doesn’t have a household name like some other media magnates but his contributions in the television industry are substantial. What’s more, the Dolan family as a whole is a fascinating study in the balance of business, wealth, and family dynamics. Here are ten things you may not know about Charles Dolan and his family.

1. Charles Dolan’s Humble Beginnings

Charles Dolan started off with humble beginnings. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1926, he grew up during the Great Depression. The humble and hard beginnings didn’t prevent him from achieving success. In fact, it can be argued they only served to fuel his drive to succeed.

Despite the modest start, Dolan was not deterred and quickly developed an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his first business at the age of 16, buying a used delivery truck to establish a grocery delivery service. It was this initial experience that sowed the seeds of his success.

2. Creation of HBO

Did you know Charles Dolan is credited as the founder of HBO? When he started Cablevision in the 1960s, he noticed that viewers were interested in watching sports games that weren’t being broadcast on network television. This led Dolan to come up with the idea of a premium cable network.

With a mind ahead of its time, Dolan recognized the potential of direct broadcasting by satellite and proceeded to launch Home Box Office (HBO) in 1972. Today, HBO stands as one of the premier networks in premium cable television.

3. The Dolan Family and Cablevision

Charles Dolan transformed cable television and along the line established a family dynasty. He founded the company that would become Cablevision in 1973. Over the years, Cablevision grew to become the fifth-largest cable provider in the United States.

In 2016, Cablevision was sold for a whopping $17.7 billion to France’s Altice. At the time of sale, the Dolan family were the controlling shareholders, with Charles’s son, James Dolan, being the CEO.

4. Dolan’s Contribution to News Reporting

Charles Dolan’s touch was not limited to entertainment television. He also bagged considerable success in news broadcasting. He spearheaded the creation of News 12 Networks, the country’s first, 24-hour, local news network.

News 12 Networks launched in 1986 as a local news service for Long Island, New York. The success of News 12 led to the creation of other local news networks. This marked a significant move towards hyper-local news reporting.

5. The Dolans and The Madison Square Garden Company

The Dolan family has expanded its reach beyond cable television. Through Cablevision, they controlled The Madison Square Garden Company, which owns iconic venues like Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Beacon Theatre.

As the control of Cablevision passed onto James Dolan, he also took over the reins of The Madison Square Garden Company. This included the management of New York Knicks (NBA) and New York Rangers (NHL), further enhancing the Dolan family’s standing in the world of sports and entertainment.

6. Charles Dolan’s Involvement with AMC Networks

Charles Dolan’s impact on television reached further still. He also played a major role in AMC Networks. AMC has become a significant player in cable broadcast, most notably recognized for shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

AMC was actually launched by Cablevision and Dolan in 1980. Although it fell under the control of his son James Dolan, Charles still had a significant role in its operation and management. In fact, as of 2021, he still sat as chairman of AMC Networks’ board of directors.

7. Dolan Family Politics

You might be surprised to learn that the Dolan family, particularly Charles Dolan, has played a significant role in politics. Over the years, Dolan has made considerable contributions to political campaigns, largely supporting Democratic candidates and causes.

While Charles Dolan’s political involvement mostly stayed behind the scenes, his impact hasn’t been unnoticed. His donations and political involvement make him a significant player in political circles.

8. Charles Dolan’s Philanthropy

Beyond cable television and politics, Dolan has shown a significant level of philanthropy. The Dolan family has been involved in many philanthropic endeavors over the years, focusing on education, healthcare, and more.

For example, Charles and his wife Helen established the Dolan Family Health Centre in Long Island, which provides healthcare services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. This is just one instance of the Dolan family’s significant contributions to philanthropy.

9. Dolan Family’s Wealth

Success in cable television has yielded significant wealth for the Dolan family. As of 2021, Charles Dolan’s net worth is estimated to be $4.7 billion, while his son, James Dolan, has a reported net worth of $1.5 billion.

The sale of Cablevision in 2016 greatly boosted the family’s wealth. Following the sale, Charles Dolan reportedly received around $2 billion in shares in the new company, significantly increasing his personal wealth.

10. The Dolan Family’s Love for Sports

Apart from business, the Dolan family has shown an intense love for sports. They not only own sports venues like Madison Square Garden but also own sports clubs. Charles Dolan’s son, James Dolan, is the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Sports Corp., which owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.

Over the years, control of the sports ventures has been passed on to James Dolan, who has become a notable, albeit controversial figure in the world of sports. The passion for sports continues to be a significant part of the Dolan family’s identity.

So there you have it, ten things that give depth and breadth to Charles Dolan’s contribution to the world of cable television and his unique family legacy. From humble beginnings to creating a television empire and a sporting dynasty, Charles Dolan’s story provides an essential piece in America’s media and entertainment tapestry.

For more on Charles Dolan and his family
Dolan Family’s acquisition of Newsday
James Dolan’s Bloomberg profile