In 1973, Israel Harold "Izzy" ASPER founded Canwest Capital Corporation (Canwest) as a holding company for planned media acquisitions, in response to the CANADIAN RADIO AND TELEVISION COMMISSION's (CRTC) call for applicants for a new television station in Winnipeg, Man. Canwest's application was successful and the company looked across the border to North Dakota's KCND-TV to provide the assets for the fledgling operation. In 1975, the station's equipment was relocated to Winnipeg and with a name change to CKND-TV, the station began operations out of a former Safeway store.
At the same time as it prepared to launch CKND, Canwest purchased a 45-percent stake in Toronto-based Global Television Network, itself a new television station, owned and operated by GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED and committed to providing programming to CKND. This investment would form the basis for the company's expansion of its operations across the country, and the company added stations in Vancouver, Regina, Saskatoon, Halifax, and Montréal to its portfolio in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1991, Canwest went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, raising the necessary funds to support a continued drive for expansion of its reach, this time outside of Canada's borders. In quick succession, the company acquired interest in or purchased television and radio properties in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Chile.
In 1995, the company turned its attention to expansion within Canada by launching a takeover bid for Western International Communications (WIC), owners of 21 radio and television stations, most of them located in Western Canada. A successful bid would have accomplished the company's goal to establish a nationwide broadcasting network. But the owners of WIC prevailed in court and Canwest was left to increase its shareholding in WIC in the hope that another opportunity would present itself.
That opportunity came in 1998 when WIC's owners sold their controlling stock to Shaw Communications and Edmonton's Allard family in an effort to thwart Canwest's plans. This time, however, the courts sided with Canwest in its appeal of the move and Canwest was able to strike a deal with Shaw Communications that saw WIC's assets divided up between the two companies with the blessing of the CRTC. The deal closed in November 2000, adding 9 additional television stations to Canwest's portfolio and eventually leading to the formation of the Global network, Canada's third full-programming television network.
With the broadcast network complete, Canwest continued to expand internationally and also investigated opportunities in other parts of the media spectrum, namely film and television production and newspapers.
A 20-percent stake in Alliance Atlantis Communications, then Canada's largest film and television company, was acquired in 1999, leading to its eventual full acquisition in 2007. In 2000 came Canwest's foray into the newspaper business through the $3.2 billion acquisition of a number of Hollinger Inc's newspaper titles, among them the National Post, and the dominant dailies in most of Canada's major cities.
In 2003, seizing the opportunity presented by a Canada-wide and international presence of news gatherers, Canwest established the Canwest News Service and a news centre in Winnipeg (later relocated to Ottawa) to serve as the main providers of news to its media network.
Leonard Asper, Izzy Asper's son, continued to realize his father's ambitions in the years that followed and to build and fine-tune Canwest's holdings by buying and selling companies and organizing Canwest's operations.
For the 2008 fiscal year, the company reported total revenues of $3.15 billion dollars generated by more than 10 000 employees and some $6.5 billion in total assets; however the company's rapid expansion coincided with the global recession and Canwest Global quickly became a casualty of the downturn. In October 2009, Canwest Global Communications Corp filed for creditor protection, along with its Global TV network, the National Post and some Canwest cable channels. Shortly after, the company's chain of big-city newspapers, which had accumulated a $925 million debt, filed for protection as part of a separate reorganizing plan.
In May 2010, Canwest announced the sale of its television operations to Shaw Communications Inc for $2 million, and in early July 2010 Postmedia Network Inc, a consortium of Canwest creditors headed by the National Post's chief executive Paul Godfrey, announced their purchase of the Canwest newspaper holdings. Comprising 11 major dailies and 26 community papers, including the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald and Ottawa Citizen, the newspaper conglomerate was transferred in a deal worth $1.1 billion, including $950 million in cash to provide a full payout to the company's secured lenders.
Canwest's community involvement includes the Canwest Canspell National Spelling Bee, whose winners participate in the finals of the US National Spelling Bee. The "Raise-a-Reader" program, initiated by Canwest and now run by Postmedia, promotes literacy programs. In addition to its support of media studies programs, Canwest has also been designated a "Caring Company," committing a minimum of one percent of its pre-tax profits to support charitable and non-profit organizations in Canada.
Author SASHA YUSUFALI
Links to Other Sites
Media in Canada
The latest news about Canada's dynamic media industry.
Postmedia Network Inc.
The website for Postmedia Network Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Postmedia Network Canada Corp., the largest publisher by circulation of paid English-language daily newspapers in Canada.
Group to acquire Canwest papers for $1.1 billion
A 2010 CTV News story about the sale of CanWest's newspapers to a group of investors led by National Post publisher Paul Godfrey.
Shaw buying up TV assets
A news story about cable TV operator Shaw Communications Inc. purchasing television assets of CanWest Global Communications Corp. From thestar.com.
Canadian Journalism Project
The Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) and its websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), are projects of The Canadian Journalism Foundation in collaboration with leading journalism schools and organizations across Canada.