The industry is all too familiar with TV executives who travel internationally to license TV shows to various stations around the globe. But John Laing is unique because he didn’t just travel internationally, he actually lived around the globe. At last count, as will be reported in the November (MIP Cancun) Issue of VideoAge, Laing has lived in 15 cities in 10 countries.
He also has the distinction of having been the youngest president of a U.S. studio’s International Distribution division, when he took that position at Orion Pictures in 1989 at age 34. Another of Laing’s distinctions is that he worked under three famously feared bosses. He worked for Charles McGregor at Warner Bros. TV Distribution from 1983, and starting in 1989, both for Arthur Krim, chairman of Orion Pictures, and indirectly for Silvia Kessel when Metromedia took control of Orion. Laing’s British humor saved him many times, and in an era when having a sense of humor was not considered a crime, he could even greet Kessel with expressions such as “What are you stirring in your cauldron today?”
And it was thanks to Kessel’s intervention that Laing was ultimately able to take hold of what would become his lifetime achievement — orchestrating the production of the RoboCop TV series and becoming its worldwide distributor, first through Rigel, a company he formed in 1993, and since 2009 with Rallie, his newest Los Angeles-based distribution company.
Even though Laing’s main schooling took place in England, he was born in Belgium, son of a British diplomat and a jet-setting mother. All this and more will be revealed in the “International TV Distribution Hall of Fame” feature in the November 2021 Issue of VideoAge, which will premiere in print at the MIP Cancun TV market, and will later be featured online. The feature will allow older TV executives to relive the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, when the entertainment business was also fun. It will also give younger executives lessons and references, because, as it is said, history repeats itself.
John Laing’s Hall of Fame marks the 33rd of the series that began in 2015, and with “only” about 40 years in the TV business, he’s also the youngest executive that has thus far been celebrated.