He was portrayed by James Spader, who also portrayed Ultron in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rip in Less Than Zero, Mr. Richards in Mannequin, Stewart Swinton in Wolf, Mr. Black in Shorts, and Steff McKee in Pretty in Pink.
Briefly appearing as a humble and professional businessman, Robert is an enigmatic and immoral man. He does not care for his employees or his job and is simply using his position of power for his schemes. He is manipulative and intimidating towards everyone in the workplace and is not above taking advantage of or exploiting them for his own interests. His management style is exploitative and unorthodox, going as far as pitting employees against one another for personal gain.
Throughout his appearances, Robert has been shown to have innumerable and unhealthy desire for sex, even going as far as proclaiming that "everything is sex" for him. He has displayed a perverse need for regular intercourse, and has tried to convince the Scranton staff to engage in group sex with him.
The only employees he manages to get along with during his time in Scranton are Nellie, who he is sexually attracted to, and Gabe, who is a neurotic sycophant that does everything he's told.
Robert was born as Roberto James Calafia in California on February 7, 1960, to two immigrant parents. At the age of eighteen, he started his own radio station in Fresno under the name Bob Kazamakis. Before becoming CEO of Dunder Mifflin-Sabre, Robert California was involved in the refinery equipment, business, going as far as managing his own company. Robert has been married three times, and divorced twice due to cheating. He has a young son, named "Bert" with his most recent wife Susan.
Robert was introduced in "Search Committee", the finale of the 7th season - as an interviewee for the Regional Manager position at Dunder Mifflin Scranton. His intense presence immediately disturbed everyone interviewing, and it turned out he attempted to sabotage the other applicants. He later appeared in a talking head interview that he is confident that he would be offered the job, as it was a call he received many times.
In the 8th season premiere episode The List, it is revealed that Robert persuaded Jo Bennett, the incumbent CEO, to give him her job instead of the Regional Manager job after his acceptance - leaving the committee's second-choice applicant Andy Bernard as Regional Manager. He often visits the Scranton branch as a result. Jim notes that whenever he visits the office, he randomly chooses employees to have conversations with, an experience described as simultaneously terrifying and highly desirable.
Robert's interactions with the office employees throughout the season reveal his true nature. He commits acts such as scheming to get rid of incompetent employees, figuring out everyone's deepest fears easily, and bonding with Nellie Bertram, the branch's Special Projects manager, due to their similar ambitions.
In the episode "Mrs. California", Robert tries to manipulate Andy when he is given a "real" management task - specifically deciding whether to hire his wife Susan or not - into failing on purpose. Seeing an opportunity to raise Robert's expectations, Andy received mixed signals telling him to hire or not hire her. Andy, unable to read the complex emotions, decides to hire Susan in human resources. Robert then threatens Andy with violence telling him to undo the hire, creating a strain on Andy that leads to him telling Susan about Robert's secret demands. Susan then reveals how difficult Robert can be, and hints that she will divorce him when she mistakenly assumes Andy has asked her out in consoling her.
In "Trivia", Robert's leadership style as CEO is first shown to the audience. Although impressed with Dwight Schrute's application for the Tallahassee branch's management position, but at the same time he desires him to stay in Scranton. This leads to Robert lying to Dwight telling him that the position is not right for him despite his passion.
Upon returning to Scranton in "Pool Party", Robert reveals his need to sell his 11,000 square foot house, intended to be his "Playboy mansion," following his divorce with Susan. The house is the series' best glimpses into Robert's emotional state - each room embodied an unfulfilled dream for Robert: the parlor a place for setting down inhibitions, the kitchen for rabidly consuming meat to feed his superiority complex, the screening room for cinematic adventures. After the tour stoked Robert's longings of the past and the group returns to the pool room, Robert giddily concludes his dream of revelry in his house is coming true with the party. Robert then strips naked and tosses himself triumphantly into the pool.
In "Last Day in Florida", Robert plans to get two of his subordinates to have a conflict at the Sabre pitch meeting, specifically Jim and Dwight, after Dwight's promotion to Retail VP for Sabre. When he goes golfing, he reveals he plans to veto the retail project and fire Dwight, admitting that Sabre products are cheap and cannot be marketed in a retail setting, and that he wants Jim to support him in the veto. Recognizing how the livelihood of his longtime colleague and friend is at risk, Jim stops Dwight from presenting the concept to Sabre executives, forcing Todd Packer to step in as Dwight's replacement. There, Robert unapologetically fires Packer.
In "Angry Andy", Robert returns to his ways and plans to pit Andy and Nellie against one another in a dispute of who should be Regional Manager after Andy's temporary leave. Nellie's insistence on keeping the job, in addition to Robert's sexual attraction to her, allows Robert to take advantage of the situation and make sure she is on top. After Andy goes on a tirade due to Robert praising Nellie and hiring her as Manager, Robert fires him.
In "Turf War", Robert reaches his decline. He closed several branches of Dunder Mifflin while drunk, leading to conflicts among every Pennsylvania-based Dunder Mifflin brand. It is then said that he will "run the company into the ground" if he is still CEO. In the season finale, "Free Family Portrait Studio", it is revealed that Robert quit due to having turned into a "corporate mess" and that Sabre was liquidated as a result. Robert never returned in the ninth and final season.
- Robert claims to be of Native American descent.
- Robert is thought to be one of the identities of the Scranton Strangler.
- In "Fundraiser" it is revealed that Robert hates ties, noted through his comment of how he feels "strangled" like in an "erotic asphyxiation chamber".
- Robert enjoys playing squash and has a fascination with both horror films and, oddly enough, the children's show Sesame Street.