Jim Barksdale Biography

Jim Barksdale is an American entrepreneur and business executive who served as president and CEO of Netscape from 1995 to 1999.


Jim Barksdale was born on January 24, 1943, in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he worked as a sales rep for IBM. He later became chief operating officer of Federal Express and served as CEO of AT&T Wireless. Joining Netscape in 1995, Barksdale served as president and CEO of the company until it was purchased by AOL in 1999. Around this same time, Barksdale began serving as co-chair of the Internet Policy Institute's board of directors. He currently heads his own investment group.

Early Life

Entrepreneur. Born January 24, 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi, James Love Barksdale offers living proof that all Silicon Valley entrepreneurs aren't cocky young upstarts faking their way to success. This consummate Southern gentleman, known for his folksy sayings and his Mississippi drawl, spent decades at the helm of established corporations before becoming president and CEO of Netscape in 1995.

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Barksdale acquired a strict work ethic from his banker father. One of six brothers, Barksdale vied regularly for the "Boy of the Week" award, a silver dollar his parents bestowed on the son who performed an outstanding good deed that week.

Early Career

Barksdale distinguished himself as a leader early, when his eighth grade class elected him president. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1965, he married his college sweetheart, Sally, and went to work as a sales rep for IBM in Memphis. In 1980, he joined Federal Express in Memphis, Tennessee, where he became chief information officer in 1979, and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1983. Under his guidance, the company developed the first computer system capable of tracking millions of packages. In 1992, Barksdale left for a stint as president and COO of McCaw Cellular Communications, a wireless phone company which merged with AT&T Wireless in 1994. Barksdale served as CEO of AT&T Wireless until 1995 when he joined Netscape in 1995.

At FedEx, McCaw, and AT&T, Barksdale demonstrated a talent for using innovative technologies to change the way companies and consumers did business. Netscape, offering the chance to develop and market a radically new technology, seemed like a logical next step.

Success at Netscape

At scrappy young Netscape, Barksdale shed his buttoned-down corporate image to win the devotion of the company's youthful staff, whom he motivated with silly cheers, homespun proverbs, and a strong sense of fair play. He refused a salary during his first two years at Netscape because he felt the company wasn't performing up to par, but he walked away with $700 million when AOL bought the company in March 1999.


Now head of his own investment firm, The Barksdale Group, he continues to affect the future of the Internet by funding e-commerce ventures. Meanwhile, he's also improving the prospects of the Deep South, through extensive philanthropic efforts in his native state. In February 2000, Barksdale donated $100 million to fund literacy programs in Mississippi.

Recently, Barksdale was named co-chairman of the Internet Policy Institute (IPI), a government organization designed to educate elected officials about Internet technology. He is one of more than a dozen distinguished authors who will draft briefing papers on Internet policy issues ranging from privacy to Internet taxation. In December 2000, the papers were compiled into a book - Briefing the President: What the Next President of the United States Needs to Know About the Internet and its Transformative Impact on Society.

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