London -- Pay TV industry veterans in the United Kingdom
last week mourned the passing of Roger Luard, chief executive of Flextech plc, who died
Aug. 15 at age 49.
The cause of his death was a rare, untreatable neurological
virus, which forced him to take sick leave from the company in May.
Luard has been described as the most unlikely of TV
tycoons. An accountant by profession, Luard joined Flextech in 1986, when it was an $80
million company serving the oil industry.
Luard invested in cable-TV franchises, taking on a major
international partner in Tele-Communications Inc., which is still Flextech's majority
shareholder through Tele-Communications International Inc. (TINTA).
He also launched many new channels. Those who worked
closely with him said Luard's commitment was never less than total, and he was known
as a colorful, energetic dealmaker.
Adam Singer, chairman of Flextech, remembered Luard as
"an exceptional man who brought a heady cocktail of charm, wit and entrepreneurial
clear thinking that helped to build this company."
Luard's thrust was to concentrate on bread-and-butter
channels and to avoid expensive sports and movie services.
His success at Flextech's helm has taken the company
to a staggering market capitalization of $1.3 billion today, with increasingly valuable
deals in place.
Luard's most attractive deal came last year, in a
joint venture with the British Broadcasting Corp. The deal guarantees Flextech access to
the BBC's archives, and it has seen a clutch of channels emerge over the past few
months, under the UKTV brand.
Bob Phillis, former managing director of BBC Worldwide, who
negotiated the BBC/Flextech joint venture, said the deal would never have happened without
The timing of Luard's death was doubly poignant, as
Flextech last week announced its first move into profit -- a modest $4 million for the six
months through June.