NEW YORK (AP) _ James Robinson Shepley, who rose from reporter to president of Time Inc. and led it through a period of expansion in which the company launched Money and People magazines, has died. He was 71.

Shepley, who lived in Hartfield, Va., after retiring in 1982 from Time, died Wednesday of complications from cancer at a clinic in Houston, Time announced.

The announcement from Time Inc. described Shepley as a ''brusque but decisive manager'' who rose to the publishing company's top executive post despite a lack of formal business training.

During his tenure as president from 1969 to 1980, the company started Money and People magazines, revived Life as a monthly after suspending it as a weekly, bought the Book-of-the-Month Club and the American Television and Communications Corp. and developed Home Box Office as the first national pay television service.

It also acquired Temple Industries and Inland Container, two forest products companies that were later spun off to Time Inc.'s shareholders.

Born in Harrisburg, Pa., Shepley worked at the Harrisburg Daily Patriot, the Pittsburgh Press and United Press before being hired by Time magazine in 1942 as a correspondent in the Washington bureau.

He was a war correspondent in both the Pacific and Europe during World War II, covering the assault on the Japanese in Burma and the Battle of the Bulge in Europe.

He was commissioned an Army captain at the end of the war and was attached to Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, with whom he collaborated on the official report of World War II.

In 1954, Shepley was co-author of ''The Hydrogen Bomb'' with Life correspondent Clay Blair Jr. In 1956, he interviewed Secretary of State John Foster Dulles for Life; the story made Page 1 news and introduced ''brinkmanship'' into the Cold War lexicon.

As an executive, Shepley rose from assistant publisher of Life to publisher of Fortune and then of Time magazine before being chosen president of Time Inc. in 1969.

After stepping down as president in 1980, he remained on the Time board as chairman of its executive committee, and also was chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Star, which Time Inc. owned for three years.

Shepley was a lifelong hunter, fisherman, aircraft pilot and sailor. He remained active on numerous corporate boards after his retirement.

He is survived by his wife, the former Yvonne Hudson; two sons, six daughters and 15 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at St. Alban's Church in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.