Welcome to My Net Worth, our regular column on the lives and motivations of our country’s top business and political people, in their own words.
Martin Stewart joined Sky TV New Zealand as chief executive in February 2019, after gaining a wealth of media-sector experience in the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East. His other major roles have included being chief financial officer of the Football Association in England, CFO and executive director of EMI Group, and serving on the organising committee for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I grew up in Poole, in Dorset on the south coast of England. It wasn't quite rural, but it's a small town. We had a lot of freedom as kids, we were always out and about or down at the beach.
When I was growing up, all I did was watch TV and movies, play sport and listen to music. Which is pretty much where I’ve spent my career.
Nobody in our family had been to university. My father had to leave school at 14 in 1940. My parents placed great store on education and were determined my brother and I would go to university. I got a place at University College London.
I never really had a plan. I loved history, so I took history. I finished university and realised that wasn't going to help me get a job. I saw sense and joined the record industry. I worked for PolyGram and I was lucky enough to meet the chief financial officer of the UK business at the time. He taught me what finance allowed you to do in a business.
I was a second-generation mod. I was 15 in 1979 when The Who’s Quadrophenia came out. I love all of that. All I basically listen to is sixties and seventies. My guilty pleasure is Carole King.
I love all sports and I worked for seven years on the board of the London 2012 Olympics. That was an absolute privilege. I was asked to do the medal ceremony for one of the Paralympic events, the men's discus. I got to walk out in front of a packed 85,000-person stadium and hand over the medals. My youngest daughter was in the press pack. So that was pretty cool.
I got the BSkyB CFO role at 34. I took it in my stride because I didn't understand how big it was. I was in that happy state of not knowing what I didn't know. Mark Booth was the chief executive of BSkyB at the time. A few years later, I remember speaking to him and saying, “I actually understand now just what an enormous risk you took.”
One of the most important things I’ve learnt in business is you've got to have courage. Too many times I see people being too fearful. Take risks – not stupid ones, though. It’s about trying things. I've made plenty of mistakes, you remember those, but also retain the courage to keep trying.
Sometimes I've listened to advice that hasn't felt right to me. And I've regretted that. I don't mind owning my own mistakes, but I regret not following through when I'm convinced I'm right.
I like to play golf and I go to the gym and since I've been in New Zealand, I have discovered that I do like walking 15 to 20 kilometers around a coastline.
My last splurge was at Kathmandu – my partner and I got, between us two pairs of shoes, four t-shirts, two jackets, trousers and a hoodie.
Your health is the only thing that really matters. I went through a period in my life of trying to own things. I own cars and watches and houses and all sorts of things. And I got to a point where I realised not one of those things was going to make me happy. So, I try not to get too attached to things. I think the only things I'm really interested is my health, the health of my kids, and my partner.
As told to Henry Burrell
This interview has been edited for clarity.