One possibility can be ruled out—that at the age of 74 he has gone soft and is making a trophy acquisition. Ever since he left McKinsey, a consulting firm, in 1970, to join the cable industry, he has been single-minded about making money. Between 1973 and 1999 he built up a firm called TCI by buying rural cable-TV operators, consolidating a fragmented industry from a scruffy office in Denver with plastic-laminate floors. Shedding not a tear, Mr Malone sold TCI in 1999 to AT&T for $59 billion (AT&T later sold it on). His approach has had four elements: complex ownership structures, high debt levels, assiduous tax planning and a refusal to overpay.