Modern Times Group AB

Visiting Modern Times Group proves to be a big disappointment. This 11-year old media company, with revenues of $480 million and 1,300 employees, owns television and radio stations, as well as several newspapers including Sweden's third largest morning paper.

Stockholm's a beautiful city and its architecture will match any in the world. The Old Town area of Stockholm is situated on an island and it's a jewel. This is where you'll find the massive Royal Palace, Parliament building, splendid cathedrals and winding cobblestone streets. It's also a cool place to have an office.

Modern Times offices face the waterfront in a gorgeous six-story building down the street from the Royal Palace. The building must be a 100 years old. A street runs past the building and a big construction dumpster, planted right in front, foils my picture taking. One enters through ornately carved wood doors and before passing through another set of doors one gets buzzed in only after passing muster with the two security guards sitting behind a partially glassed-in enclosure. I don't pass muster. One of the security guards calls up CEO Pelle Tornberg's secretary to find out who's my contact person. Tornberg's secretary tells the security guard to tell me "We're not interested". I ask the guard to ask Tornberg's secretary if they'd received my introductory material. The guard again calls her up and is told to tell me "yes". I ask the guard to hand over the phone so I could talk to her. Tornberg's secretary tells the guard to tell me "she doesn't want to talk to you".

Modern Times isn't the only tenant as I count four more names listed on the building directory. I do manage to leave with a company annual report and thumb through looking for possible reasons for being so coldly dismissed. Maybe they're having financial problems or layoffs. Maybe it's because management is pompous and aloof-it's a possibility with the Royal Palace being right down the street. No, that can't be the reason. Why am I so sure? In the annual report (page 13) there's a bizarre, full-page color picture of five executives dressed up as the Blues Brothers (remember Dan Ackroyd and Jim Belushi from Saturday Night Live). The five are wearing dark suits along with dark sunglasses and hats. What are they doing in the picture? Pulling a gold colored Roman chariot with another executive standing inside wearing a blue Statue of Liberty costume complete with him holding a torch. Below the picture is the caption "For Our Friends And Competitors". Jeez, after seeing this I wonder what's the big deal spending a few minutes with a bicyclist who traveled half way around the world.