David Haslingden grew up on a sheep and cattle ranch in New South Wales, Australia, and says he figures that’s where he will ultimately wind up. In between, he is having a peripatetic career that’s taken him through the wilds of the international television business to Hollywood, where he is president of Fox Networks Group, a key job at one of the world’s most important entertainment companies.
People who know Haslingden say he has stayed down to earth and that he’s the kind of guy they would enjoy having a beer with. “He’s got almost no ego,” says John Fahey, CEO of the National Geographic Society. “People who work for him really enjoy him. Sometimes that happens but you don’t get the intellectual depth and the strategic depth. He brings that as well.”
Originally, Haslingden thought he would be a farmer, but decided there had to be an easier way to earn a living. He became a lawyer, working at a Sydney firm whose clients included News Corp., which offered him a job. “My title was actually ‘anything but a lawyer,’” he says. After a series of “odd jobs,” he went to Hong Kong as executive director of Star TV, where he headed up marketing and distribution, shuttling from India to Japan to Korea to China.
Later, Haslingden worked on a deal giving News Corp. a 50% interest in the National Geographic Channel. He learned the National Geographic Society’s business and eventually moved to Washington as head of National Geographic International.
“What he did here for the National Geographic Channel is he really made them believe that they could achieve huge goals,” says Fahey.
After News Corp. merged a number of companies to create Sky TV, Haslingden moved to Rome to focus on creating channels for the company.
Haslingden grew the Fox International Channels business from an operating loss to its current $500 million in annual operating income. The unit is expected to generate $1 billion in operating income before 2015. “I’d have to say I certainly didn’t do it alone,” he says. “The thing that gives me most pleasure thinking about Fox International Channels is we were able to coordinate ourselves as an amazingly disparate team, spread out across the world, 20-plus nationalities, very significant age ranges and experience ranges amongst us. And yet, we were able to coordinate ourselves to act as a cohesive and very fast-moving team.”
That performance was a big reason Haslingden was summoned to the U.S. last January to run all of News Corp.’s channel businesses, which COO Chase Carey calls the heart of the company. “He has proven an ability to take responsibility to make decisions and take intelligent risks and not shy away from challenges and to deliver results,” Carey says, adding that Haslingden’s sociability is an asset at News Corp., which puts the onus on executives to build businesses. “It’s important to have individuals who can build teams, who can relate to people.”
Former Star TV president Bruce Churchill, now president of DirecTV Latin America, says Haslingden brings a unique perspective to his job. “He grew up in the TV business in the international markets, where you basically make it up as you go along, which I think requires a lot more creativity and entrepreneurship than it does in the U.S.”
Building relationships is very important in international markets, as is having a sense of humor.
“We did business in India. That in and of itself is a test of anyone’s sense of humor,” Churchill says of Haslingden.
Haslingden packed his charm when he traveled to the U.S. Lou LaTorre, president of Fox Cable Ad Sales, says Haslingden is the best of 10 bosses he’s had at News Corp. “He’s always supportive and there’s not a negative bone in the guy’s body,” LaTorre says. “He genuinely cares about the people who work with him. He’s a phenomenal leader and a great boss.”
While Carey says Haslingden hit the ground running in his current post, the latter credits others for the continued momentum at channels such as FX. “Thank goodness the team here is so good at their jobs,” Haslingden says. “Not having a lot of experience when I first got involved wasn’t a fatal liability.”
Haslingden is excited by the world he now helps run. “You drive onto the lot to go to work and I pinch myself,” he says. “You’re working in close vicinity of people who are creating or performing in content that affects the lives of millions of people around the world.”
While Haslingden and his wife, a New Yorker he met while a lawyer, have moved to L.A., his two teenage daughters decided to ! nish school in Australia. Both Haslingden and his wife went to boarding school and think it is a positive experience. While he amuses himself by writing whodunits, he says the family does normal things—museums, ballgames, beaches, hikes—except in unusual places.
“As a result of work, we and my children have really good friends in just about every country in the world,” Haslingden says. That has made all the travel a bonus. “The children are really quite extraordinary in terms of their understanding of different parts of the world and their openness to different cultures, behaviors and attitudes,” he says. “They’re very broad-minded, easygoing and experienced.”
E-mail comments to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette
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