MTG topper rolls with the times

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While companies are posting weak if not miserable earnings reports, Hans-Holger Albrecht, CEO of Scandinavia’s Modern Times Group (MTG) represents a gritty determination to tough things out.

The company’s revenue is climbing with Albrecht’s risk-taking since he became CEO of the pan-Nordic media outfit a year ago, making these some of the best times for him and MTG.

A 38-year-old Brussels-born German citizen, Albrecht is known for keeping a tight rein on the $510 million revenue company but also for a disarmingly frank style of leadership. Albrecht, who holds a doctorate in law, came to the company in 1997 from CLT/Ufa (now RTL Group).

While announcing nine-month net revenue increases of 21% on Oct. 24, he promised MTG would continue to deliver a 15%-20% growth in revs per year despite adverse market conditions.

When it was pointed out that one of the company’s goals was near impossible to reach by year end, Albrecht laughingly retorted, “So shoot me if we don’t make it.”

“Albrecht combines a very sharp wit with an amiable way of doing things — people like doing business with him,” says Josh Berger, senior VP and managing director of Warner Bros. Intl. Television, Europe.

Albrecht heads a group that launched TV3 across Scandinavia in 1987 as the territories’ first terrestrial commercial network and now has more than 150 companies including hot format maker Strix.Modern Entertainment, its L.A.-based rights-buying arm, has been charged with increasing its acquisitions and distribbing both in the U.S. and abroad.

The company’s main expansion plans, however, are aimed at Central and Eastern Europe, says Albrecht, where MTG already has channels in Hungary and Russia.

“Russia is risky, but we like to go where other people are afraid to go,” he says. “When we went into the Baltics, people thought we were crazy. Now our Baltic TV operations are profitable.”

One of Albrecht’s biggest gambles, he admits, was a year ago, when MTG moved almost all its ViaSat Broadcasting analog pay TV customer base to a digital platform.

After saying for years that Nordic consumers were not ready for digital, Albrecht says, “I suddenly had a gut feeling that the time was right, and I knew also how we could do it” without racking up major losses.

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