Martin Lindskog, a pioneer in pay and free-to-air television, died Nov. 1 of heart failure in Stockholm. He was 52.
Lindskog grew up in Stockholm, but his father’s work as a Swedish Air Force attache brought him to Washington D.C. for four years, and helped fuel what was to be a lifelong passion for astronomy and aviation. As early as the age of 15, he had already begun to fly glider planes.
Lindskog began his professional career in 1974 at the Bonnier-Esselte-owned Development Company, a company aimed at using video as an educational tool. It was reborn as the Benelux-Scandinavian Esselte Video and then Esselte Entertainment, which he became managing director of in 1980.
At a time when much of Europe was dominated by state-owned public service television channels, Lindskog helped launch pay TV outfit FilmNet in 1985, first in the Benelux and then in Scandinavia. At the same time he also took Esselte into cinema, launching the first multiplexes in Malmo and Gothenberg. It was during his tenure at FilmNet that he met his wife, Joan Estes, a former executive with UIP and Disney and now owner of the Stockholm-based Mediabolaget (Media Company).
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In 1993, he was recruited by SBS to become the president and director of SBS Broadcasting. One of the first commercial networks in the Nordic territories, the company was in a phase of rapid expansion into continental Europe.
Frequently during his SBS days, he would take to the air to personally fly planes-full of executives or journalists to press conferences in SBS new launch territories like Hungary, Poland and Switzerland. Said Harry Evans Sloan, former executive chairman of SBS and now chairman and CEO of MGM, “He was a classy individual and a talented executive but, beyond that, he was the man who made SBS so much fun for me. SBS wouldn’t have happened without Martin’s tireless dedication and energy.” SBS was sold in October to private equity owners for $2.5 billion.
In 2001, Lindskog left the world of media to work full time pursuing his passion for aviation and founded, along with partners Goran Jansson and Daniel Elfstedt, a commuter airline called European Executive Express.
Jorgen Nilsson, managing director of VCI Media and one of Lindskog’s closest friends and colleagues throughout the various stages of his media career at FilmNet and SBS, said, “Martin was a true entrepreneur. He saw opportunities far before many in his time, and had the vision and the energy to get them off the ground. But aviation was always his major passion and over the last four years, he was able to fulfill that dream of seeing his own aviation company take off as well.”
He is survived by his wife Joan, a son and his mother.