Shelby Bryan

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John Shelby Bryan (born March 21, 1946) is an American telecommunications pioneer, futurist, international business executive, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist.

A Texas-born millionaire, Shelby Bryan received his B.A. and Law Degree from the University of Texas. While at the University of Texas, Bryan played football for the Longhorns for one year, but a serious injury prevented him from continuing to play. He was also active in the UT Law School's moot court. After graduating the University of Texas Law School, Bryan was one of only two graduates hired to manage environmental projects for Ralph Nader.

Bryan went on to study at Harvard Business School, where he played for the undefeated Harvard Rugby team in 1972. In 1973, Bryan's article, Conglomerate Mergers: Proposed Guidelines, was published in the Harvard Journal of Legislation. During summers while at Harvard, he worked on the family investment fund for William S. Paley, the founder of CBS. After graduating from Harvard near the top of his class, Bryan was one of only twelve hired from the business school to work at Morgan Stanley in their corporate finance department. Within his first year at the company, Bryan was made an Associate in Morgan Stanley's mergers and acquisitions group. He had key involvement in many significant deals, including the 1976 merger of GE and Utah International, the largest deal in the United States at the time.[1]

Byran left Morgan Stanley to partner with Swedish media owner Jan Stenbeck to form Millicom, one of the first modern cellular phone companies in the United States.

As CEO of the newly founded Millicom, Bryan grew the company's market share exponentially. In 1985, Millicom had become the leader in cellular operations, providing more cell licenses to more people and countries than any other company to date. One of Millicom's early joint ventures start-ups was Vodafone, which became the world’s largest cell phone company. In September 2013, Vodafone sold its U.S. wireless business to Verizon Communications for $130 billion, making it history's third largest corporate deal.[2]

In 1994, Bryan was asked to step in to replace the CEO of ICG Communications, which was in the midst of financial failure. Brought in by ICG's Board of Directors as a change agent, Bryan turned the failing company around by immediately replacing the management team with more experienced, higher caliber professionals and implementing a new business plan. He successfully raised more than $2 billion in financing, and in just five years, increased ICG's revenue from less than $200 million to nearly $4 billion. That historical improvement in revenues enabled the company to grow from 125 to more than 3,500 employees. At the time, ICG was one of the first telecom companies aggressively deploying fiber in metropolitan areas.

Bryan saw the warning signs of the looming dot-com bust: an overbuilt, unpredictable industry that was over-funded. When he shared his concerns with the company's stakeholders, his prediction was very unpopular. Bryan stepped down from his role at ICG in 2000 when the company, like most of those in the Internet business, began to face difficult times during the dot-com meltdown. Arguments can be made that ICG's difficulties were due in part to the marketplace uncertainty the company faced, as well as the competitive nature of the industry, which was populated by larger companies who were investing billions in infrastructure. Some have said that Bryan would not cower to the press, so when troubles hit ICG, they were more critical of him than they might otherwise have been. Before the dot-com bubble burst, ICG provided the pipelines for 15% of the world's Internet traffic.

While CEO at ICG, Bryan also emerged as one of Bill Clinton's chief fund raisers and supporters. In 1994, he served as the National Finance Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 1997, Bryan was named to President Clinton's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He held that position for the remainder of Clinton's term and continued through the first nine months of George W. Bush's presidency.

Following his departure from ICG, Bryan went on to form Pingtone Communications, one of the first VOIP (Voice over IP) companies in the United States. BusinessWeek currently lists Bryan as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Washington, DC based company.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Bryan started boxing when he was 14 years old, and at age 16 became one of the youngest Golden Gloves contenders.

Bryan was also an avid sailor, and competed in a number of races. His team received the 4th place medal in the 1975 Annapolis to Newport race; the 2nd place medal in the 1975 North American Sailing Championships; and the 4th place medal in the 1976 Newport to Bermuda race.

Bryan and his first wife, Lucia, have two daughters, Ashley and Alexis. After divorcing Lucia, Bryan married his second wife Katherine, and had two sons, Austin and Jack. Three of his four children live in New York (Alexis, Ashley and Jack), and Austin lives in Washington, DC.

Bryan gained media attention in 1999 when, after divorcing his second wife, he started a relationship with renowned Vogue Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour. The two met at a Benefit Ball for the New York Ballet. Bryan and Wintour have maintained their close, committed relationship and live together in New York's Greenwich Village. Bryan continues to maintain a residence in Houston, Texas. While he does accompany Wintour to high profile fashion, cultural and fundraising events, Bryan intentionally flies "under the radar." The couple also enjoys traveling and attending U.S. Open tennis matches.

Bryan is a staunch supporter of the performing arts and has a deep love of opera, ballet and theater. He was Chairman of the Texas Chamber Orchestra, and is a financial contributor to New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Houston Fine Arts Museum, and the Houston Grand Opera. Bryan also served on the Board of The Actors Studio in the late 80s. His personal ties to the performing arts include a first cousin, Peter Masterson, who was co-author and director of the hit Broadway musical, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Another cousin, Horton Foote, won two Academy Awards for his screenplays as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And Bryan himself, in 1983, co-produced the off-Broadway play, "The Last of the Knucklemen."

Bryan's notable charitable contributions and involvement include the following organizations: God's Love We Deliver, New York City's leading provider of nutritious, individually-tailored meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves; and New Yorkers for Children.

Ancestry and Austin, Texas Descent[edit]

Bryan's father was James Perry Bryan III.[4]

Bryan's mother was Gretchen (Smith) Bryan.[5]

Bryan's paternal grandfather was William Joel Bryan II.[6]

Bryan's paternal grandmother was Catherine Weisinger Perry.[7]

Bryan is the great, great, great grandson of Emily Margaret Austin Bryan Perry. He is also a direct descendent of Moses Austin who, in 1821, left for Missouri with a grant to bring 300 colonists into Texas. These colonists were referred to as the The Old Three Hundred. Bryan's full family tree may be found on the Brazoria County Historical Museum's website.[8]

Bryan's oldest known relative is Richard Austin who sailed with his wife and two sons to America from England in 1638 on the ship Bevis.


  1. ^,9171,945472,00.html
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Marie Beth Jones, 1982, Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years (Waco: Texian Press), p. 191, ISBN 0-9630042-0-4
  5. ^ Marie Beth Jones, 1982, Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years (Waco: Texian Press), p. 191, ISBN 0-9630042-0-4
  6. ^ Marie Beth Jones, 1982, Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years (Waco: Texian Press), p. 191, ISBN 0-9630042-0-4
  7. ^ Marie Beth Jones, 1982, Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years (Waco: Texian Press), p. 191, ISBN 0-9630042-0-4
  8. ^ Adriance, Lois Brock. (1984) Descendants of Moses Austin, Texian Press: Waco, p. 1, Library of Congress Number 84-080078