Leonard Asper has resigned as president and CEO of CanWest Global Communications, the troubled Canuck broadcaster founded by his father.
A statement from CanWest on Thursday said he was stepping down to “avoid any concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest.”
Asper is part of a consortium trying to buy a controlling interest in the Winnipeg-based company, which is under court-sanctioned bankruptcy protection. Members of the consortium include U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs and Canadian private equity company Catalyst Capital Group.
The group’s initial bid has been rejected by a Canadian judge and the group is considering whether to appeal.
The court has approved a rival bid from Calgary-based cabler Shaw Communications, which has pledged to pay C$95 million ($92 million) to take a controlling stake in CanWest.
But the Asper-Goldman Sachs bid could come back into play because Goldman Sachs is one of the owners of CanWest’s cable-channel division and that will give the giant investment bank leverage to take ownership in the restructured company.
“As the company continues to work through the separate, court-supervised financial restructurings of the publishing and broadcasting groups, it is a natural time for me to move on,” Asper said in a statement.
He became CEO in 1999, two years after his father, the late Izzy Asper, stepped down from the top job.
Leonard Asper oversaw the $2.2 billion acquisition of Alliance Atlantis in 2007, which gave CanWest a slew of cable channels.
But the debt load from that acquisition was one of the main reasons the company ran smack into a financial crisis last year when the economy went south.
Peter Viner, a longtime CanWest exec, has been appointed head of CanWest’s broadcast division.