Roger executive Phil Lind selected for American Cable Hall of Fame

Roger executive Phil Lind selected for American Cable Hall of Fame
Stephanie Findlay Monday July 16, 2012
Like many close business partners, Ted Rogers and Phil Lind had their disagreements. “We fought, sometimes,” said Lind.
But, he said, “on the main things, we could conspire together. Like taking over Maclean-Hunter, like taking over the U.S. All of those things we did together.”

Lind, the vice chairman of Rogers Communications Inc., has spent the majority of his 42 years as the second-in-command to the late Rogers, the Canadian media executive known for his 18-hour workdays and powder-blue suits.
Yet lately Lind, who is responsible for getting Rogers into the pay-per-view business and acquiring the Toronto Blue Jays, has been getting some recognition.
He was recently inducted into the American Cable Hall of Fame, the third Canadian, after Rogers and JR Shaw, executive chairman of Shaw Communications, to receive the honour, also bestowed to Larry King, late night television king, and media mogul Ted Turner, former director of Time Warner Inc.
“It was great to win it, it is pretty unusual, it usually goes to Americans,” said Lind, talking in his downtown office on the top floor of 333 Bloor.
If Rogers was the risk-taking workaholic, Lind served as his soft-spoken executor, leveraging his winning smile to acquire cable franchises from Minneapolis to San Antonio in the early days of the company. Rogers subscribers grew from 15,000 into the millions. “Not to flatter Phil,” Rogers said in 2001, “but I think it’s totally because of Phil personally, and the people that he brought around him. He had a feeling of trust and confidence.”
When the company pulled out of the United States in the early nineties, Lind focused on content, among other things launching OMNI, North America’s only multi-cultural network, and acquiring SportsNet. Rogers is now a multi-platform enterprise, generating over 12.4 billion in revenue last year. As Rogers put it, he and Lind “had a lot of fun.”
Lind, 68, was wearing a black blazer, a pinstriped shirt and brown loafers. He grins easy and often. He limps, the result of a stroke years ago. His hobbies are fishing and contemporary art.
On the wall behind his desk hangs the hood of a ‘66 Dodge charger, a version of the model popularized by the Dukes of Hazard, emblazoned with a photo by Ed Ruscha, famous for gritty shots of rundown gas stations in the United States. On another wall hangs a photograph of the Orkney Islands taken by his son, Jed, an artist, living in Los Angeles.
“Everybody likes staying in the back when I drive,” he said, getting into his black Audi S6. Taking Jarvis St. to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where a wing of the gallery is named after him, he talked about Iceland, where he had recently visited. “To me it was terrible, there was salmon fishing everywhere,” he said. Still, he said, he doesn’t want to test his good luck. “I shouldn’t go salmon fishing,” he said, “the last two times I’ve done extraordinarily well. Six salmon the last time, eight the time before that.”
Lind’s education would prepare him more than most for his future job in business. His path to the cable hall of fame began in politics, when he was studying political science at McGill, later finishing his degree at the University of British Columbia. He then completed a Masters in sociology at the University of Rochester under Canadian Peter Regenstreif, a longtime Liberal strategist, and William Riker, who wrote The Theory of PoliticalCoalitions, a bible in the field.
At the time, the program in Rochester was the hotbed of game theory; the U.S. Department of Defense would apply the principals in foreign policy, including the Gulf War.
“I think Phil got into game theory, he talked to me about it, came down, and I think, may have helped Rogers with it,” said Regenstreif.
“Every night if you wanted to, you could play game theory,” said Lind, tucking into snapper and beluga lentils at the AGO restaurant. The game was this: start with $25 dollars and five people, and, using game theory, divvy up the money. “These guys were relentless,” said Lind.
Lind continued working in politics, as assistant national director for the Conservative party 1968. “I was madly in love with the Kennedy’s,” said Lind, “Bobby’s campaign was going, and so, unfortunately, was ours. Trendy Trudeau cleaned our clock.” A year later, he was working for Rogers.
Lind has a knack for getting people, a trait he attributes his time in Rochester, and one that he says helped him wrestle control of Canadian cable from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). “I always have had a sympathetic attitude towards the CRTC, it helps me a great deal,” he said, “if you start out like my contemporaries and say they are idiots…where does it get you in the end?”
On the fourth floor of the AGO, in a room full of work by Iain Baxter, a conceptual artist, Lind stops in front of a photograph of paint in a cylindrical hole carved in the earth.
“Where were they putting the paint? For what?” asked Jan Innes, Lind’s executive assistant.
“They just did it,” said Lind, shrugging. “They just did it.”
“It takes time, especially with conceptual art. This stuff. If you think about it, you come back to it, eventually something comes through,” he said.
Standing in the entrance of the AGO, Lind explains why Baxter, a Canadian artist who has achieved international fame, is one of his favourites.
“If you make it in your country, sometimes the recognition and adoration is contrived,” he said. “It’s important for people to be recognized outside of their own little playground.”
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