Lawrence Flinn Jr. ’60
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Privet Capital, LLC
Lawrence Flinn earned a BA degree from Yale University in 1957 and an MBA degree from Columbia Business School in 1960. After graduating from business school, Mr. Flinn worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York until the end of 1964. He then joined the Bogdan Company, a venture capital firm.
Mr. Flinn was attracted to the nascent field of cable television because it was a natural monopoly within municipal boundaries and a good place for smaller businessmen to operate. When Bogdan chose not to invest in cable television, Mr. Flinn bought Vestal Video, Inc., a small operation in suburban Binghamton, N.Y. He moved to the Binghamton area to manage the fledgling business, which was later renamed United Video Cablevision, Inc. (UVCI). In about four years Mr. Flinn boosted the number of subscribers from 3,000 to nearly 15,000, and by 1970 UVCI served about 15 communities in upstate New York.
In 1975 Mr. Flinn purchased United Video, Inc. (UVI), which used towers and microwave technology to transmit television signals from WGN-TV Chicago and other big-city stations in places such as Dallas and Houston to smaller underserved cable television markets in the central United States. In 1976, UVI began using, with FCC permission, an uplink to transmit the signal of the popular WGN, which broadcast Chicago Bulls basketball games, featuring Michael Jordan, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox baseball games. The innovation was an almost immediate success, and before long UVI was distributing WGN by satellite to more than 60 million homes. UVI then changed its name to United Video Satellite Group (UVSG). The next big success for UVSG was the Prevue Channel, a program guide that UVSG individually customized for each cable television system to which it delivered program-guide listings. By 1998, the Prevue Channel (now called the TV Guide Channel) was distributed to more than 40 million homes nationwide.
Mr. Flinn took UVSG public in 1993. Through its SpaceCom Systems subsidiary, UVSG provided space-segment transmission for the Satellite Music Network (which it also founded) and for 5 of the country’s 10 largest paging companies. UVSG also developed the Sneak Prevue Channel, which promoted pay-per-view subscriptions on cable television systems for more than 26 million homes and by 2000, there were more than 10 million premium digital guide subscribers to the TV Guide Channel service, in addition to the more than 40 million viewers to the analog guide service. In addition, UVSG provided programming services for 4 million homes equipped with the original 9 meter satellite receiving dishes. This was a very profitable business for the Company. Under Mr. Flinn’s ownership and leadership as chief executive officer, UVSG’s revenues increased from $7 million in 1976 to well over $1 billion in 1998.
In 1995, Mr. Flinn decided to exit the cable television field and to sell UVCI. He sold the 162,000 cable subscribers that he had built up in eight states from Maine to New Mexico. At the time of the sale, he was the 42nd-largest multiple system operator of cable television systems in the United States. Beginning in 1996, Mr. Flinn sold control of UVSG over the next couple of years, and in 1998 he retired. Mr. Flinn and his wife, Stephanie, live in Jupiter Island, Fla. They have three children: Lawrence III, Marion, and Adriane.