UK-born Martin Stewart joined Sky in February 2019, bringing with him media experience from previous roles including chief executive of OSN – a Middle East pay TV network – and CFO of Sky UK. He also sat on the board of the London Olympics.
"I was born in Poole on England's south coast. I was sports mad. I really enjoyed my athletics, and I played a lot of football. I aspired to be an athlete, at least until I realised how good Sebastian Coe was. I was also fortunate to pass the 11+ exam for grammar school, because my mother was determined, as was my father, but Mum particularly so, that my brother and I would be the first in our family to go to university.
"I went to University College in London at a time when people were encouraged to study what they were passionately interested in and, for me, that was history. A good historian needs slavish attention to detail as they try to understand the forces that shaped events and how those events shape the current reality. To understand where you are, you need to understand the journey people took to get to there.
"I enjoyed university but I had no idea what to do afterwards so, when I left I sat down with a friend and went through a list of professions. We crossed off doctor and dentist. I toyed briefly with the idea of law then decided to become an accountant, which was as far from my natural orientation as you could get.
"Once qualified I went for a job interview at a record company called PolyGram where I met my professional mentor. This man opened my eyes to what finance training could enable me to do in the context of business, because everything we do is about the mastery of numbers and understanding why those numbers are what they are. It is the information you need to make good decisions. He explained to me how vital a good finance team is, because they're the people with all the information, and their job is to get that information around a business so everyone is well-equipped to make good decisions to move the business forward. I love every aspect of music, film, television and sport, and it's proof of that old adage, that you'll never work a day in your life if you do something you love.
"When I first started in the record business, somebody came with a request for petty cash to buy fruit and flowers for a band. I won't tell you which band. I asked, 'how much do you need' and this person said, 'one thousand pounds'. 'How much fruit and flowers will you get for a thousand pounds?' I asked and this person looked at me like I was a bit dim. I only found out later that fruit and flowers is a euphemism for the things that are needed for the after-party.
"Working in a very creative environment, you have to maintain a lot of discipline as there were a lot of things going on, everything you might imagine of the music industry but, at the same time, it is a very serious business with people dedicated to making great music and film.
"When my mentor was asked to be CFO of Sky TV I went with him into television. This was about 1996, when Sky UK was big in sports broadcasting but, within a couple of years, my boss got very ill and died after a short illness. I was asked at a rather young age to take over his role in 1998. It was a massive growth phase, but it was also a very difficult time when he passed away, because, in the seven years I worked with him, he had become like a second father to me. But he gave me a blueprint that I've tried to keep in mind every day since then and I'm very grateful to him.
"When I start at a new company, I ask as many people as I can within the organisation a set of simple questions. I ask what's great about the business. I ask what's not great, then I ask what they'd do to fix the things that aren't so great. Then I ask why they haven't been done. I find most people understand what needs to happen, and trying to identify why those things haven't happened is key.
"I also find people who can help me navigate the different culture. When I went to work in Spain, I learnt that people still have a traditional approach to a longer lunch. You need to understand when and how people do business, how far you can push changes in culture, and also understand what is in the DNA of the people you're working with.
"The third thing - I get out and see things for myself. I took a trip round New Zealand before I started at Sky, a bit like a secret shopper. I told people I was thinking about staying and asked questions including what they thought of Sky.
"They told me a lot of things I expected, but the most important thing, from most people, was that they were disappointed and they wanted Sky to be what it used to be.
"That's what we're setting out to do, to live up to the reputation Sky had when it started, and brought entertainment from around the world to New Zealand audiences. Sky also pumped hundreds of millions, maybe billions into the ecosystem of New Zealand sport, helping generations of sportspeople achieve their dreams. But somewhere along the way, instead of being recognised as a loved brand, Sky allowed themselves to become less than that, so what I'm trying to do is put the love back.
"The hardest part of any leadership role, you have to disappoint some people. That's inevitable and if it doesn't bother you, then I'd be worried. I find that aspect really difficult, but it's supposed to be. If you're causing people disappointment or upset, the only thing you can do is sit down and tell people the truth. If you do that, and offer that first sign of respect by treating people honestly and not being unduly penny pinching, you're treating people as fairly as you can. It's never an easy process but I'm really passionate about what we're doing.
"Everybody wants to be entertained. Maybe 2 per cent of people you meet say they're disinterested in TV, film or sports – but the other 98 per cent - whether it's news, reality shows, drama, documentaries, comedy, big movies, sport - almost everyone you meet is into something. So our task is to put the thing that person wants in their hands in the way that suits them.
"I love challenges. I love learning new things, that's what keeps me stimulated. I am very curious, I also like finding out new things, and I balance that with trying to find as many smart people as I can to work with me. My old boss at PolyGram gave me a number of rules that I adhere to today. And one of them was, hire people who are smarter than you. The team we have here at Sky is full of really smart, innovative people and that team environment will help bring us all along."