Close this search box.
Close this search box.

S. Robert Levine

More than a decade ago, Bob Levine’s high school classmates voted him “Least Likely to Succeed.” In 1992, a different group of peers voted S. Robert Levine, president and CEO of Cabletron Systems, Inc. magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the  Year,” an honor he shared with Craig Benson, the company’s chairman. Since 1983, the duo have taken Rochester, NH-based Cabletron, the world’s largest maker of computer networking cables, from a privately held firm launched in Benson’s garage to a public company employing 3,100 people in 18 countries worldwide. Today, the crewcutted, 36-year-old Levine resembles a squat Arnold Schwarzenegger-the result of hoisting weights, scattered around his office, when the mood strikes.

“I’ve done it for 17 years,” he says. “It relieves stress and makes me feel aggressive.”

As if the kinetic Levine-or Cabletron-needed additional pumping. Sales in the nine months ended November 30, 1993, soared 46 percent from the year earlier period to $429.9 million from $295.2 million. Net income of $83.5 million represented five-year growth of 120.6 percent. The company, which went public in 1989 with an initial offering price of $15.50 a share, recently traded on the New York Stock Exchange at $122, an eye-popping order of magnitude above its 52-week low of $74.

Cabletron’s roster of customers includes 80 of the Fortune 100. Its products, which allow computer systems to share information with others inside and outside a company, have won the respect of analysts and technology experts.

“Cabletron has an exceptional future,” says William Becklean, senior vice president and head of the technical analysis group at Boston-based Hancock Institutional Equity Services. “Levine and Benson make decisions quickly. If they’re wrong, they change them.” Becklean also praises Levine for a hands-on approach, including direct involvement in closing 25 percent of sales.

Doug Carey, a technology analyst with New York-based RAS Securities, says Levine’s aggressive salesmanship has enabled Cabletron to maintain relatively high profit margins. Carey sees the company riding an expected boom in demand for products linking computers and networks to the information superhighway. Cabletron, he says, has taken an early lead in the development of special ATM bridge products and internetworking devices to handle highspeed data traffic.

“There’s no reason the earnings trend should change,” Carey adds. “We’ll probably see another 30 percent increase on the stock price within another year.” Interestingly, there’s no computer in Levine’s small, cluttered office. “I don’t know how to use one,” he admits. In a swipe at such larger competitors as IBM or WANG, where thousands have been lopped from the payroll, he says: “We don’t spring clean every 25 years. Every day, we make sure our people are productive. If they’re not, they’re moved out.

“I’ve seen too many companies promote incompetence. I hire dedicated people, brighter than me, and give them the chance to succeed.”

No shrinking violet, Levine periodically duels with the state government in Concord, NH, over taxes and economic incentives. In 1991, he threw down the gauntlet over the Business Profits Tax, which, Levine argued, fell disproportionately on large firms.

The CEO took his case to the New Hampshire State Supreme Court. He was forced to set aside millions in escrow during the appeals process. Finally, last year the court ruled against the company. Still, the message was not lost on key politicos. Last year, Governor Steven Merrill introduced a new Business Enterprise Tax, under which the overall tax burden of large manufacturers was reduced. Ultimately, the levy was passed by the state legislature. Nevertheless, Cabletron opted last year to expand in Rhode Island instead of in homestate New Hampshire.

Weekends find Levine racing one of his two powerboats or roaring down a country road on one of his four Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He is the sole trustee of the Levine Family Charitable Trust, which he created in 1989. Since its inception, the trust has made sizable contributions to a host of charitable organizations.

For example, he recently presented country music singer Willie Nelson, president and chairman of Farm Aid, with $100,000 to help farmers battered by flooding along the Mississippi River.

“We’re all Americans,” Levine says. “I wanted to encourage other corporate executives to help.” 


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.