Astral shareholders approve Bell’s $3 bil buyout

But they nix outgoing CEO Greenberg's exit bonus

MONTREAL — Astral Media shareholders have approved telco and broadcast giant Bell Canada’s $3 billion acquisition of the Montreal-based broadcaster, but they shot down outgoing CEO Ian Greenberg’s $25 million exit bonus.

Greenberg was to be compensated, per regulatory filings, because he is giving up future income by arranging Astral’s sale and stepping down as CEO. Shareholders nixed that idea via advance proxy votes. Astral will push ahead with a plan to hand out $20 million to other key execs.

Nevertheless, Greenberg said he was happy to see shareholders approve the acquisition.

“This enthusiastic support aptly reflects the value that the negotiated agreement represents for all Astral shareholders,” Greenberg said. “I look forward to continuing to work in close collaboration with Bell’s team towards securing regulatory approvals for the transaction and its completion later in 2012.”

A hearing in Quebec Superior Court on Friday is set to secure approval for the deal, which must also pass the Competition Bureau and broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, which could force Bell to sell some of Astral’s assets and will definitely order it to invest in local production.

Astral is one of Canada’s leading cable-channel owners with a slew of English and French-language channels, including Teletoon, Canal D and Canal Vie. The acquisition gives Bell a major share of Quebec’s broadcast market for the first time.

Bell owns Canada’s leading commercial TV network CTV and a bunch of cable channels.

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