CanWest’s Asper steps down, Viner in

TORONTO — Israel (Izzy) Asper, who built CanWest Global Communications Corp. into Canada’s biggest broadcaster, has turned over the job of running it to long-time executive Peter Viner.

At a news conference Monday, Asper, 64, relinquished the title of chief executive officer and handed it to Viner, 52, along with the newly created title of president.

Asper has three adult children, all in their 30s, in senior executive positions in the company.

Viner has just returned from Australia, where he was chief executive officer of Network Ten for nearly five years. Winnipeg-based CanWest recently increased its economic stake in Network Ten to 76% from 57%. The Australian broadcast regulator has ruled that the company, in doing so, has violated foreign investment regulations.

Viner, who first joined CanWest in 1974, is credited with turning around Network Ten, which was in receivership when CanWest bought its stake.

Asper also gets a new job. As executive chairman, he’ll step away from day-to-day management and “focus exclusively on what I have always wanted to spend my time at, the external growth and development of the company.”

CanWest hopes to expand its TV operations in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and to participate in new ventures elsewhere. The company is a leading member of consortium bidding to establish Ireland’s first private TV network.

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