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"ASP" 2003 Obituary


ASPER 

ASPER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-08 published
Israel ASPER: A timeline
Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - Page B6
1930s
Born Israel Harold ASPER in 1932 in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the son of musicians Leon and Cecilla.
Even in his youth, Mr. ASPER was a newspaper junkie. As a Grade 10 student he started a newspaper on his own.
1940s
After the Second World War the ASPERs built a small chain of theatres in rural Manitoba and Winnipeg. Izzy was an usher at one of the theatres.
Married Ruth (Babs) BERNSTEIN, who he met in high school in Winnipeg. Like the ASPERs, the BERNSTEINs were immigrants from Eastern Europe.
1950s
Attended the University of Manitoba. Called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1957.
son David, born in 1958, is now CanWest Global executive vice-president.
1960s
Daughter Gail, born in 1960 is now CanWest Global's corporate secretary.
son Leonard, born in 1964, is president and chief executive officer of CanWest Global.
1970s
Member of Legislative Assembly and Leader of the Liberal party in Manitoba from 1970-1975.
Began his broadcasting career when he bought North Dakota's KCND in 1974, moved it to Winnipeg and changed the call letters to CKND.
Buys 45 per cent of troubled Global Ontario network in 1974.
1980s
In 1988 he gains licences for new television stations in Regina and Saskatoon.
Buys television stations in Vancouver and Halifax-Saint John.
In 1988, Mr. ASPER and associates buy out partners in the Ontario Global system.
In 1989, CanWest takes over 100 per cent of Global and becomes CanWest Global Communications.
1990s
CanWest lists on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991.
In 2000, Mr. ASPER moves into print with $3.2-billion purchase of Southam newspaper group from Hollinger Inc.
2000s
The newspaper deal sparked heavy criticism as Mr. ASPER was accused of editorial interference at the papers.
Last year, CanWest fired Ottawa Citizen publisher Russell MILLS after the paper published an editorial critical of Prime Minister Jean CHRETIEN.
Jazz was always Mr. ASPER's passion - his brother gave him a Rhapsody in Blue recording as a bar mitzvah present. In 2002, CanWest opened a Winnipeg jazz FM station.
Died yesterday at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg at 71.

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ASPER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-08 published
Shock, sadness over ASPER
Former movie ticket taker rose to prominence as one of Canada's biggest media moguls
By Richard BLACKWELL Media Reporter Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - Page B1
Canada's business, media and political elite expressed shock and sadness at the death of Izzy ASPER, the colourful Winnipeg media mogul who died yesterday at the age of 71.
Mr. ASPER built CanWest Global Communications Corp. into a national television and newspaper powerhouse, and more recently spent some of his fortune on charitable and philanthropic causes.
Israel ASPER, known to everyone as Izzy, was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg at 9: 30 yesterday morning, and died soon after, surrounded by his wife and children.
CanWest spokesman Geoffrey ELLIOT/ELLIOTT said he had no information on the cause of Mr. ASPER's death, although it was "obviously sudden."
The funeral is set for tomorrow.
Mr. ASPER smoked heavily for years and had a serious heart attack at age 50.
A tax lawyer who for a time was leader of the Liberal Party in Manitoba, Mr. ASPER built CanWest Global from a single television station in Winnipeg into its current status as one of Canada's biggest media empires.
Colleagues and Friends praised him for his business successes and community work.
Conrad BLACK, who sold Mr. ASPER the Southam newspaper chain in 2000 to cement CanWest's position as Canada's leading media company, described him in an interview yesterday as "a charming informal character [with] never a hint of self-importance despite his great success." And that success was legendary, Lord BLACK said.
"The man started out taking tickets in a cinema in Minnedosa, and he, as of this morning, was the premier figure in the Canadian media. That's quite a career."
Lord BLACK noted that Mr. ASPER "had a reputation, in some circles, for being very litigious [but] I always found him a joy to deal with."
"We never had any difficultly reaching an agreement, and you never had to worry for an instant that the agreement would be followed up by him to the letter. "
Prime Minister Jean CHRÉTIEN issued a statement in which he called Mr. ASPER "a great personal friend and one of the finest and most able individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing."
Ivan FECAN, president and chief executive officer of Bell Globemedia and Chief Executive Officer of CTV Inc., described Mr. ASPER as "a great entrepreneur, a brilliant competitor, and a true original."
Onex Corp. chief executive officer Gerald SCHWARTZ, who was a protégé of Mr. ASPER's and helped found the CanWest empire, said he "left a legacy of pride for his family, a television network for all Canadians, and a business empire for his colleagues. His leadership in the Canadian Jewish community is a loss that will not easily be overcome."
Mr. ELLIOT/ELLIOTT, who has worked with Mr. ASPER for the past four years, described him as "a visionary, but at the same time he was very human and very approachable."
Mr. ASPER's death raises questions about the future of CanWest Global, the conglomerate that owns Southam newspapers, the National Post, the Global television network, specialty television channels, and broadcasting operations in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
While Mr. ASPER was chairman of CanWest, he had given up the chief executive officer responsibilities to his son Leonard ASPER in 1999, and retired from day-to-day management responsibilities earlier this year.
His main preoccupations were two charitable foundations, the ASPER Foundation and the CanWest Global Foundation.
Still, Mr. ASPER was seen as the driving force behind the company's strategy, right up to the end.
Some people close to the company said yesterday that Mr. ASPER exercised so much strategic control, even in retirement, that the company could be plunged into turmoil. Operations could be restructured, and new partnerships and financings put in place.
CanWest's Mr. ELLIOT/ELLIOTT said a succession plan has been in effect for "quite some time," and there are unlikely to be any significant changes in the strategy of the company because of Mr. ASPER's death.
"There's a strong depth of long-term management at CanWest at the corporate level," he said.
The CanWest world
Canada
Publishing
-National Post
-CanWest Publications (Incl. 16 daily newspapers and 50 other publications)
Media Marketing and Sales
-CanWest Media Sales
-Integrated Business Solutions
Entertainment - Production and Distribution
-Fireworks Entertainment (film and television production)
Television Broadcasting
-Global Television Network (Incl. 11 television stations across Canada)
-independent stations (Incl. Hamilton, Montreal and Vancouver Island)
-Canadian Broadcasting Corporation affiliate stations (Incl. Kelowna and Red Deer)
-Specialty Television (Incl. Prime TV, Fox Sportsworld Canada, Mystery -45% Xtreme Sports, Men television - 49% Deja View, Lonestar)
Radio Broadcasting
-CJZZ FM Winnipeg
Production Services
-Apple Box Productions (commercial production)
-StudioPost Film Labs (post-production services)
-CanWest Studios (sound stage)
-WIC Mobile Production (live event mobile units)
New Media
-CanWest Interactive
-canada.com Interent Portal
-Financial Post Data Group
-Informart
International
Entertainment - Production and Distribution
-Fireworks Pictures (U.S., feature film distribution)
-Fireworks Television (U.S., television production)
-Fireworks International (Britain, International television distributor)
-CanWest Entertainment
International Distribution
(Republic of Ireland)
New Media
-Internet Broadcasting Systems (U.S. - 18%)
-LifeServ Corp. (U.S. - 25%)
Television Broadcasting
-Five stations in: New Zealand (2); Australia 57.5%; Northern Ireland 29.9%; Republic of Ireland 45%
Radio Broadcasting - New Zealand
-More FM (five stations)
-Channel Z (three stations)
-The Breeze (Wellington)
-4 National FM Networks
Out-of-Home Advertising - Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam
-Eye Corp. (100% owned by Network Ten)

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ASPER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-08 published
Observers hail ASPER contribution
But views on Israel and direction of news coverage also provoked controversy
By Richard BLOOM and Paul WALDIE Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - Page B7
In its early days, CanWest Global Communications Corp. may have had the dubious moniker of The Love Boat network, but there is no doubt Izzy ASPER made "very significant" contributions to Canadian media, industry observers said yesterday.
At the same time, his actions as head of the media empire weren't without controversy.
Mr. ASPER died yesterday at 71. A tax lawyer by training, he is more commonly known as the founder of Winnipeg-based CanWest the parent of the Global network of television stations, and which, in 2000, engineered a multibillion-dollar purchase of Southam Newspaper Group, National Post and other assets from Conrad BLACK's Hollinger Inc.
Glenn O'FARRELL, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, said Mr. ASPER left a huge broadcasting legacy.
"The Canadian broadcasting system has been built over the last number of decades through the efforts of some fairly significant entrepreneurs, and Izzy ASPER was clearly one of those," Mr. O'FARRELL said. "He brought an incredibly astute vision of what could be done and what should be done in the name of strengthening Canada's place both domestically and internationally."
Mr. O'FARRELL worked at CanWest for 12 years and said working for Mr. ASPER was stimulating. "It was absolutely a privilege to work with somebody who possessed the depth and the breadth of his intellectual curiosity and interests."
Mr. ASPER also provoked controversy over the years with his views on Israel and his drive to converge news coverage at CanWest's newspapers.
In 2002, he fired Russell MILLS, publisher of the Ottawa Citizen, after an apparent conflict over editorial independence. At the time, CanWest forced papers across the chain to carry editorials written by officials in the company's head office. The policy sparked a barrage of complaints about a lack of editorial freedom at the papers. The removal of Mr. MILLS prompted a wave of protests against CanWest from Parliament to media organizations around the world. Mr. MILLS sued and reached a settlement with the company a few months later.
Mr. ASPER's staunch defence of Israel also left him open to charges that CanWest's papers do not fairly cover events in the Middle East. In a speech last year, he attacked media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accused several media outlets of having an anti-Israel bias. He singled out coverage by CNN, The New York Times, British Broadcasting Corp. and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and said anti-Israel bias was a "cancer" destroying media credibility.
He has often criticized the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in particular for what he has called the broadcaster's anti-Israel coverage. Yesterday, a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. official declined to comment on Mr. ASPER's views.
Still, amid the controversy, Christopher DORNAN, director of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, praised Mr. ASPER's role in Canadian journalism.
"We're still, in the entertainment area, overshadowed by the exports of the juggernaut to the south. What's really ours is non-fiction, it's journalism... in as much as Israel ASPER built CanWest into a major, major player in that sector, his contribution is clearly significant."
Added Mr. DORNAN: " There are uncharitable souls that would argue that CanWest's contribution to the Canadian cultural landscape was negligible.
"Because when CanWest built itself as a network, in the early days, it was known as The Love Boat Network -- all they did was buy cheap, populist American programming, got ratings and contributed very little to Canadian cultural production. They made very little programming of their own and what they did make was in grudging compliance with Canadian content regulations," he said.
Mr. DORNAN argued that the Canadian media industry is not about keeping the Americans at bay, but instead about funnelling in highly desired American content in the most advantageous way possible.
Mr. ASPER built a television network that now employs "people from network executives to janitors. Those jobs would not have existed had he not done that. And now, of course, they do actually make some programming," Mr. DORNAN said.
Vince CARLIN, chairman of the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, agreed, noting that history books won't likely describe him as a great endorser of Canadian culture.
"That's not what he was about. He was a businessman," said Mr. CARLIN, the former head of Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Newsworld, who had met with Mr. ASPER on numerous occasions.
"He learned how to use those [business] skills to create very dynamic business enterprises, but [CanWest] would never put cultural considerations ahead of business considerations," Mr. CARLIN said.
He explained how in his company's early days, Mr. ASPER insisted to government officials that his chain of television stations was not a "network" but instead a "system," because being dubbed a network was less advantageous from a business perspective. When regulations shifted, Mr. ASPER changed gears, calling the stations a network, Mr. CARLIN said.
Mr. ASPER was also involved in a bitter legal battle with Robert LANTOS, a prominent Toronto-based filmmaker. Mr. ASPER sued Mr. LANTOS for libel over comments he made during a speech in 1998. In the speech, Mr. LANTOS described Mr. ASPER as "the forces of darkness, whose greed is surpassed only by their hypocrisy." Mr. ASPER said the comments left the impression he was dishonest and disloyal.

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