Group seeks to buy 3 Canwest papers, including The Gazette
Mon Jan. 18 2010
TORONTO — Three veterans of Canada's media industry are taking a swing at buying a trio of major Canwest newspapers including the Montreal Gazette in a bid that could force the media conglomerate to consider selling off its assets piece by piece.
The consortium of investors, headlined by former Canadian senator Jerry Grafstein, said Monday they are only interested in picking up the National Post, The Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen.
If their bid was to succeed, Canwest would have to find someone else to buy the rest of their newspaper operations, which include the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Victoria Times-Colonist and two Vancouver dailies, the Sun and Province. Canwest has said it believes selling the assets as a whole is a better option.
Grafstein is joined in the bid by former Global TV executive and Montreal Star editor Raymond Heard and writer and broadcaster Beryl Wajsman.
The group said it has "received strong financial commitments" and is in the process of filing a bid to buy the three dailies. It hopes to begin its "due diligence" investigation into the papers' operating data within the next few weeks.
Future of newspapers
"I'm a believer in the future of newspapers," Grafstein said in a telephone interview.
"We believe that there's a strong role for Canadian newspapers in every community. We think they should be locally owned and controlled and we have very interesting and important ideas about how to generate attention and interest on the Internet to support these newspapers."
Grafstein said he disagrees that Canwest's current operating model is the only option for the newspapers.
"If you take a look at the history of newspapers in North America, the strongest papers are those that are rooted in each community," he said.
"I believe it's from the bottom up, not the top down."
Each of the leaders in the latest bid has played a prominent role in Canadian media. Grafstein, who retired from the senate Jan. 2 after turning 75, was a founder of Citytv in Toronto, while Heard worked as editor at the London Observer News Service on top of his roles at Global and the Montreal Star. Wajsman is editor of The Suburban, Quebec's biggest English-language weekly.
Consortium to bid for three CanWest dailies
Canadian media luminaries Jerry Grafstein, Raymond Heard and Beryl Wajsman announced today they are leading a consortium of local investors to acquire Montreal’s The Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen and The National Post.
The group is in the process of filing a bid to buy the three dailies Canwest LP, a division of Canwest Global Communications Corp. The partners hope to be able to begin due diligence on the operating data in the next few weeks.
The consortium partners have received strong financial commitments from unspecified sources. They said additional participants in the consortium will be announced shortly.
“Our partnership represents a cross spectrum of engaged Canadians committed to a vigorous, independent media voice for the communities that each newspaper serves. We are encouraged by the positive response we have received from investors,” the three consortium partners said. “We are firm in our view that there remains a bright future for newspapers supported by creative web platforms.”
The media consortium said today it believes the newspapers would benefit from local involvement that would produce timely, informative, well-written stories and grassroots journalism reflecting the priorities of Canada’s diverse communities. Each newspaper has a loyal and interested readership, which the consortium said it is confident can be broadened and deepened.
Grafstein is a former Senator and founder of CITY-TV in Toronto and other electronic and print enterprises in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America. He retired from the Senate when he turned 75 — the mandatory retirement age — on Jan. 2. Heard, a media consultant with major corporate clients, was White House correspondent and Managing Editor of the Montreal Star, editor of the London Observer News Service, and head of Global TV News, which is also owned by Canwest. Wajsman, is editor of Quebec’s largest English-language weekly, publisher of the bilingual journal of political commentary, The Metropolitan, and was the producer and host of a Montreal radio news magazine program.
Group prepares bid for National Post
Offer to include Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen
Last Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 | 10:43 PM ET
A proposed bid for three Canwest newspapers — the National Post, Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen — is about strengthening local newspapers, members of the group involved said Monday. A group says it's preparing a bid to buy the National Post, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)The group was spearheaded by Montreal media figure Beryl Wajsman and includes former senator Jerry Grafstein and former Global TV executive and Montreal Star editor Raymond Heard.
The group is backed by six wealthy unnamed investors who were concerned about the future of local news, Wajsman said. He said they are especially concerned about preserving the Montreal Gazette — the only remaining English-language daily in the city.The group declined to provide further details of their plan.
"We are in the diligence process and will be releasing more details of the plan in due course," Grafstein said on the CBC's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. He did say the proposal would not involve taking on excessive debt, such as the type that watchers say crippled Canwest when it bought the former Southam newspaper chain in 2003.
"If you use excessive leverage, you're not giving your franchise an opportunity to make money," Grafstein said. Increasing the focus on local news also makes good business sense, Grafstein said. "If you look at the history of newspapers in North America or elsewhere, all newspapers started really as strong local newspapers, and when they lost their contact with their local communities they weakened," he said. Grafstein also promised new approaches to carrying newspaper content online to attract younger and specifically female readers.
Union welcomes bid
The group’s interest in the newspapers was welcomed by the union representing employees at the Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen.
"We welcome anybody who believes in quality journalism, quality local journalism, local involvement and basically says, unlike the rest of Canada, you don’t have to run a newspaper only if you own a large chain," said Arnold Amber, director of the Communications Workers of America Canada.
In general, Amber said, newspapers are not doing poorly.In the last quarter, the Canwest newspaper division had an operating profit of $70 million, Amber said. Canwest Global Communications placed many of its media properties under court protection from creditors last year and announced last week an auction process for buyers interested in its newspaper and television assets.
Each of the leaders in the bid announced Monday has played a prominent role in Canadian media. Grafstein was a founder of Citytv in Toronto, while Heard worked as editor at the London Observer News Service and has roles at Global and the Montreal Star. Wajsman is editor of the Montreal weekly The Suburban and is publisher of The Métropolitain journal.
Group seeks to split Canwest papers
By QMI Agency
Three prominent members of Canada’s media industry said they have formed a group to bid for three newspapers being sold by Canwest Global Communications.
The consortium is made up of Jerry Grafstein, a founder of Toronto’s City-TV, Raymond Heard, a media consultant and former managing editor of the Montreal Star and Beryl Wajsman, the editor of Quebec’s biggest English-language weekly.
The three will offer to buy The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen and The National Post, they said in a statement.
“We believe there is a future in newspapers,” Grafstein said in an interview today. “They have to be strongly controlled and locally controlled to build on their loyal readership,” he said, adding that the newspapers need to be enhanced by the creative use of the web.
Grafstein would give no further details on other potential members of the consortium or on financial backing. The group does however expect to announce new participants. The partners hope to begin the process of due diligence, or scrutinizing the accounts, in the next few weeks.
“No buyer has come forward to bid for them all yet,” Grafstein said. “And even a successful bidder may not want to finance the whole transaction.”
Hon. Jerry S. Grafstein and Beryl Wajsman
on the CanWest bid