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Asper, CanWest’s founder, dies at 71

B'caster formed Canada's largest newspaper publisher

TORONTO — Israel (Izzy) Asper, the outspoken founder of CanWest Global Communications, Canada’s largest broadcaster, died unexpectedly Tuesday morning in his home town of Winnipeg. He was 71. Cause of death was not given.

A lawyer, former politician and longtime Liberal party supporter, Asper started up a small TV station in Winnipeg in 1974; the company eventually expanded to become an international entity with media holdings in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.

CanWest also became Canada’s largest newspaper publisher in 2000 when it bought most of Hollinger Intl.’s Canuck newspapers, including, in 2001, the National Post.

“The company feels a sense of profound loss on the passing of our founder, who distinguished himself as a visionary business leader, a caring leader in his encouragement and financial support of worthy causes and as a champion of Israel,” a CanWest spokesman said.

Family enterprise

In 1999 Asper handed the reins to his son Leonard, who became prexy and CEO, and in January he stepped down as executive chairman. His son David is exec VP of CanWest and chairman of the National Post newspaper; daughter Gail Asper is corporate secretary of CanWest Global.

Asper remained chairman of the board, however, and CanWest said that a successor will be named in due course.

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