VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Phil Lind was a collaborator and confidante to one of Canada’s greatest business minds for nearly four decades. Now the Vice Chairman of Rogers Communications is sharing his story in Right Hand Man, his new autobiography.
The full title is Right Hand Man, How Phil Lind Guided the Genius of Ted Rogers, Canada’s Foremost Entrepreneur. However, Ted liked to call him the abominable “no” man as the best friends often disagreed, “because Ted had a million ideas. Most of them were nuts but some of them were genius!”
Lind’s book lays out, often in fascinating detail, many of those ideas, including the deals that saw Rogers acquire Maclean’s, the Toronto Blues Jays, and Sportsnet, just to name a few.
“When [Ted] died [in 2008], his company was worth over $20 billion dollars, in one generation. No one’s done that in Canada. No one. Ever,” Lind says. “So I thought, that in itself is worthy of writing about.”
Lind was employee number 160 at Rogers Communications. Today, the company employs more than 26,000 people. He and Ted had a handshake deal. “He said, ‘Friends don’t work for friends. That’s not a good thing. Why don’t we take it year by year.'” Lind would end up working alongside his friend for nearly four decades.
He also talks about the sacrifices it took to build Rogers into the company it would become. “[Ted] started with nothing. And so, you don’t just start with nothing and build a great company, you have to borrow, borrow, borrow. And he mortgaged his house two or three times. Anything he had.”
Together, they made Rogers into a media giant, starting off in radio and cable and later expanding into wireless. Or, as Lind puts it, “we made a little company a lot bigger.”
Listen to John Ackermann’s full interview with Phil Lind:
Lind was an innovator in his own right, too. For instance, he was the driving force behind simultaneous programming substitution, where Canadian channels can overlay local commercials over American programming. He says, “without it, we wouldn’t have a Canadian TV broadcasting system today.”
Lind’s life changed forever on July 1, 1998, the day he suffered a stroke at the age of 54. “I was in bed, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk. I could barely think,” he recalls. “It’s hard to come back from that but you do. A lot of people have done that.”
Regrets? The UBC grad admits he’s had a few. One of them being the decision by Rogers to swap out its B.C. cable assets with Shaw back in the ’90s.
“Because British Columbia is the second most desirable province to Canada to do any business with. Here, everything is open for business and it’s a tremendously exciting growth-oriented province. That’s why I wanted to be here. I wanted to have a cable footprint here. I wanted to be everywhere here.”
Ten years after Ted’s death, Lind continues to work for Rogers, serving as the company’s Vice Chairman. He says, above all, Ted was a great listener. “He listened to all these ideas and then grabbed on to some of them and ran with them. And I was fortunate enough to be along for the ride, really.”
Does Lind foresee a Rogers back at the helm of Rogers? The short answer is no.
“I think professional management is called for here. Being an owner is quite different than being an operator and Ted was both. Founders have to be both,” he explains. “I don’t think any of [Ted’s children] would want to work 15 hours a day like Ted did. Ted just worked. That’s all he did was work, from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed, he worked. That’s all he did! He set a target and he was relentless. Relentless. All business.”
Right Hand Man is published by Barlow Books.