When word got around the industry that Lindsay Gardner, president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Cable Networks, had resigned his post to join Mediatech Capital Partners, an investment banking firm, many were caught off guard, but not those who knew him best. Among his close friends and colleagues, there was a sense that it was not so much if Gardner would leave Fox, but when.
“Lindsay’s a pretty remarkable guy, and I have a sense there are a lot of things he wants to do with his life,” says Bill Goodwyn, president of affiliate sales & marketing at Discovery.
Gardner left his position April 30 and was replaced by longtime lieutenant Michael Hopkins. He joined News Corp. in 1999, moving from Cox, where he helped manage the MSO’s programming portfolio. He began his wide-ranging 24-year career in cable as a copywriter for the now-defunct Satellite News Channel. During Gardner’s tenure at News Corp., Fox became a cable programming and distribution giant, joining the ranks of Viacom, Disney and Discovery as suppliers of some of the most recognizable and in-demand brands in subscription television.
In a statement, Tony Vinciquerra, president and CEO of the Fox Networks Group, praised Gardner’s “efforts and leadership,” saying they had “contributed significantly to the success of Fox Cable Networks.”
If there has been one defining characteristic of Gardner as a cable professional it is that he has both the inclination and the ability to juggle many tasks and passions. In 2006, a year he calls “one of the greatest in my life,” he oversaw record growth at Fox, headed up a national industry convention, was elected chairman of a major foundation and served as a key political operative in a historic Senate campaign. In the process he found himself sleeping no more than five hours a night, in his words, “just to squeeze everything in.”
In 2006, Gardner, a CTAM board member, was named along with Cablevision SVP of marketing Patricia Gottesman co-chair of that organization’s prestigious annual marketing summit. The challenge for Gardner was significant: He had to manage the strategic direction of the conference, and had to do it with the specter of DirecTV looming over his shoulder. Two years prior, CTAM, the industry’s association for marketers, had closed ranks and began excluding cable’s competitors as members. Gardner’s parent company, News Corp., was at the time the owner of DirecTV, and Gardner now admits getting the job was more difficult than doing it. “Given the DirecTV connection, it speaks volumes about Char Beales and the CTAM board that they would trust me with the chairmanship of the CTAM Summit,” says Gardner, adding, “Once I got the job and Pat and I sat down with Char and her incredible staff, they made the rest of the experience as easy as you could imagine.”
Gottesman said in an email that the experience of working with Gardner on the CTAM Summit showed him to be a person who “cares deeply about quality work, careful execution and the people around him.” Her email also echoed what others have said about her onetime co-chair: “He also understands the life-work connection, and focuses on what is most important in both areas.”
One of Gardner’s best-kept secrets throughout the years has been his love of politics or, more specifically, his support of the ideals embodied by certain members of the Democratic Party. “A lot of people don’t know this,” says Goodwyn, “but Lindsay is very passionate about politics and worked very hard in 2006 to get Harold Ford elected as senator from Tennessee.”
Indeed, in 2006 Gardner served as Ford’s finance chairman, and that year conceived and produced a major fund-raising benefit that added over $200,000 to the former congressman’s war chest. Ford, whose eloquence and ability to quote scripture enabled him to reach both black and white voters and almost propelled him to a political upset, later repaid the favor by agreeing to speak to Gardner’s two children and their fifth grade classmates at a school in Santa Monica, Calif. And not only did Ford speak, he actually caused a stir by reportedly telling the students he would run again for senator in 2008, a claim he later would neither confirm nor deny when queried by the Tennessee media.
Ford says Gardner went beyond the garden-variety operative you often meet in the world of politics. “Lindsay really believed in what we were doing,” he says. “He brought a new level of organization to fund-raising. But beyond that, on a personal level Lindsay became a real friend—him and his family.”
Gardner says his political leanings have come as a surprise to some, including former head of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, who is currently managing Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) bid for the presidency. Gardner says that when he and McAuliffe spoke last year, McAuliffe laughed and said, “A Democrat at Fox? Hah, that’s great!”
Another of Gardner’s deep-rooted passions is diversity. Gardner was recruited by former T. Howard Foundation president Curtis Symonds to join the board of the organization, whose mission it is to engender diversity in the media and entertainment industries. T. Howard soon became one of Gardner’s pet projects. And in—once again—2006, he was elected chairman of the foundation, a position he will maintain. “Lindsay is not one of those guys who just runs meetings,” says Goodwyn, a fellow board member. “He really wants to make a difference.”
Josephine Pamphile, T. Howard president, says that Gardner took a very pragmatic approach to furthering the organization’s mission. “Lindsay’s focus from the beginning was to get his fellow board members to open doors for us, and get phone calls returned,” says Pamphile. “He was very strategic in his thinking. His objective was to facilitate communication between me and the right people. He knew that would help me, which in turn would help the foundation.”
A Mentor Among Mentors
According to many, one of Gardner’s most under-appreciated abilities is his skill at developing quality executives, among them his successor Mike Hopkins and former Fox SVP Ray Hopkins (no relation), who is now COO of the YES Network. Gardner claims that of all his recent achievements, the one that makes him most proud is the number of quality people he has helped mentor. “There is not a major company in the cable industry that does not have someone who once worked with our group, and I’m very proud of that fact,” says Gardner.
Despite his claim to have once compelled former Time Warner Cable programming head Fred Dressler to throw a calculator at him, many of Gardner’s MSO colleagues hold him in high regard. Matt Bond, EVP of content acquisition for Comcast, recalls with warmth how Gardner once helped throw him a going-away party when Bond briefly left AT&T Broadband to join YES, and how he supported him as both a friend and a colleague through the transition period. When asked to recall any specific moments negotiating with Gardner, Bond says, “I can’t think of any.” He then adds: “Who knows? Maybe I’m trying to block them out.”
Discovery’s Goodwyn, who often competed against Gardner, says of him something that, perhaps, best summarizes the feelings of those who know him best: “I have great admiration for Lindsay as a colleague and I’m proud to call him a friend. He is one of the most talented people on the distribution side of this business. He’s smart, he’s strategic, he looks at all the different angles, all the nuances. And above it all, he’s a really nice guy.”
Gardner’s Legacy at Fox
When Lindsay Gardner joined News Corp. in 1999 the Fox family of cable networks consisted of FX and a handful of regional sports networks. Since then, the company has launched, relaunched and/or acquired a legion of cable and broadcast networks, and Gardner has overseen distribution of all of them. They include:
Fox Sports Net (including 21 RSNs)
National Geographic Channel
Fox Soccer Channel
Fox College Sports Pacific
Fox College Sports Central
Fox College Sports Atlantic
Fox Sports en Español
Fox Movie Channel
Fox Cable Networks – The Gardner Years
Gardner joins Fox Channels Group as EVP, distribution; is responsible for sales on FX, Fox Movie Channel and several RSNs.
News Corp. combines cable and satellite programming interests into single unit: Fox Cable Networks. Gardner becomes EVP, affiliate sales & marketing.
FCN focuses resources on flagship, FX, combining major investment in programming with broad distribution push. FX becomes fastest-growing net in cable, moving from 30 million homes to full distribution in five years.
FCN becomes among first programmers to provide top hits—24 and The Shield—to spur fledgling affiliate VOD business.
FCN and National Geographic TV & Film launch National Geographic Channel, which becomes one of only four new nets in history to top 20 million homes in one year.
FCN acquires SpeedVision and uses NASCAR season to relaunch net as SPEED. SPEED becomes another rapidly growing net and tops 70 million homes in five years.
FCN relaunches Fox Sports World Español as Fox Sports en Español and begins producing original content for U.S. Hispanic market.
FCN launches action sports and lifestyle service, Fuel TV.
FCN launches major foray into college sports with Fox College Sports, featuring three nets built around regional coverage.
To trade on unscripted television craze, FCN launches Fox Reality; net hits 20 million homes in year one; 35 million in year two.
FCN piggybacks on Fox Super Bowl coverage to relaunch Fox Sports World as Fox Soccer Channel, while adding English Premier League and MLS games.
FCN launches its first-ever fully hi-def net, National Geographic Channel HD.
Gardner serves as co-chair of CTAM Marketing Summit.
Gardner is named president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Cable Networks.
FCN and Big Ten launch first national net devoted to a major collegiate conference’s most popular sports, women’s athletics and campus activities.
Gardner is elected chairman of T. Howard Foundation.
Gardner resigns; Michael Hopkins is named as his successor.
Lindsay Gardner, Dealmaker
Always the strategist, Lindsay Gardner views his new gig at Mediatech Capital Partners as a great vantage point from which to monitor both new investments and possible career opportunities. His first deal is an investment in an Irish tech company, Porto Media.
“I’m excited about Mediatech Capital,” says Gardner of the L.A.-based boutique investment firm. “My position there will provide me a great platform to consider opportunities for combining both leadership and investment.”
As for Porto Media, the firm has developed technology that facilitates the downloading of a full movie into a thumb drive in less than 20 seconds. The application would allow a retailer like Blockbuster or Wal-Mart to set up a series of kiosks from which shoppers could purchase a virtually limitless supply of movies.