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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:22 pm    Post subject: Don't expect contrarian Liberals to tilt National Post left Reply with quote

Monday, January 18, 2010 5:32 PM

Don't expect 'contrarian' Liberals to tilt papers left
Jane Taber

A troika of well-known Liberals who are bidding for three Canwest newspapers will be bringing in a small-“c” conservative partner in the coming weeks.

Ray Heard, a member of the bidders group, refused to name who that person is. Mr. Heard is a former press secretary to John Turner and has strong ties to the Liberals. Jerry Grafstein, a Toronto lawyer and head of the Liberal ad machine, Red Leaf, during the Trudeau years was appointed to the Senate in 1984 by Pierre Trudeau.

Mr. Heard cautions, however, that he and Mr. Grafstein are Grit “contrarians.” (He says Beryl Wajsman, the third partner, who is editor of Quebec’s bilingual paper, The Metropolitan, is more of a loyal Liberal.)

Nor should readers expect Liberal-leaning newspapers if they are successful in their bid to buy the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette. Mr. Heard, who worked for Global TV in a senior role, supported Conservative Peter Kent in the last election, much to the chagrin of then-Liberal-leader Stéphane Dion.

He said he raised money for Mr. Kent, who is now the junior Foreign Affairs minister. “Dion was furious with me,” Mr. Heard told The Globe. He said that if Mr. Dion could publicly endorse Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, he could endorse Mr. Kent.

The Liberals did not run a candidate against Ms. May in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Defence Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia riding. A controversial character, Mr. Heard also went on television to call for Mr. Dion’s resignation and later, he called for former Ignatieff chief of staff, Ian Davey, to be fired. Both Mr. Dion and Mr. Davey are no longer in those positions.

As for the former senator, Mr. Heard says he is “way on the right” of the party when it comes to his views on support for Israel. Mr. Grafstein dreams big and his dreams usually come to fruition – he was one of the organizers of the massive Toronto SARS conference, featuring the Rolling Stones.

Mr. Grafstein’s son, Larry, is an owner of The New Republic, a small-“l” liberal American magazine.

Mr. Heard, meanwhile, says the National Post cannot be a “pale imitation" of The Globe and Mail. “We would not make any major changes to the Post. … We have to have a position in the market


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Group including Jerry Grafstein seeks 3 CanWest papers

Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein talks to the media in 2006. Chuck Stoody/The Canadian Press
Consortium wants to acquire Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and National Post
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See also:
•Media landscape: Don't expect 'contrarian' Liberals to tilt papers left
•CanWest lenders can't wait on sale, Scotiabank tells Asper
•CanWest newspapers go on block despite CEO Asper's objections
. Article Comments (114) David Friend

Toronto — The Canadian Press
Published on Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 10:31AM EST

Last updated on Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 5:34PM EST

.Three veterans of Canada's media industry are taking a swing at buying a trio of major CanWest Global Communications Corp. CGS-X newspapers, including the flagship National Post, 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 Post, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen.

If their bid were to succeed, CanWest would have to find someone else to buy the rest of its 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.

Mr. Grafstein is joined in the bid by former Global TV executive and Montreal Star managing editor Raymond Heard and writer and broadcaster Beryl Wajsman, known for his colourful appearance at the Gomery inquiry.

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.

“I'm a believer in the future of newspapers,” Mr. 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.”

CanWest has placed many of its media properties under protection from creditors in recent months and announced last week an auction process for buyers interested in its newspaper and television assets.

The latest bid cherry picks from CanWest's basket of newspapers, and selects some of those with the largest circulation.

CanWest and its lenders have previously made a case for selling the newspapers as one operation and have said that they complement each other, including integrated websites led by Canada.com and a relationship with the Post's newsroom, which delivers an array of national news content to local papers.

The Winnipeg-based company's spokesman, John Douglas, said that CanWest will give preference to any bids made for the entire publishing business, which includes all of the newspapers.

“When third parties have looked at these operations they have concluded that they're collectively more valuable than they are as single entities,” Mr. Douglas said.

Mr. Grafstein disagreed and said that CanWest's current operating model is not 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.”

Media observer Duncan Stewart, director of research and analysis at DSam Consulting, said that the bidders may have a difficult time trying to convince CanWest and its lenders that there is a better operating model for newspapers.

“Newspaper chains are worth more when they all hang together than when they're chopped into bits,” he said.

“There are certain costs shared by a newspaper chain and when you try spreading it across three [papers], the economics don't work nearly as well.”

Other Canadian companies have approached their financial troubles with a similar attitude – all or nothing on the auction block – only to find their hopes quickly crushed by the realities of the market.

Last year, Nortel Networks Corp. wanted to sell its entire business in one transaction, though it quickly became apparent that no Canadian investors were willing to pay the full price. Nortel wound up auctioning off its assets in chunks.

CanWest launched the first stage of the sales process for its newspaper assets a week ago, and several prominent media companies have been pegged as potential bidders, including Black Press, which could be shopping for some of the Vancouver-based papers.

Torstar Corp., TS.B-T owner of the Toronto Star and a minority shareholder of Black Press, has reportedly also been exploring the opportunity of adding to its roster of more than 100 smaller newspapers.

Another bid is being arranged by Paul Godfrey, chief executive officer of the Post, and a group of investors, sources close to CanWest have said.

Each of the leaders in the latest CanWest bid has played a prominent role in Canadian media. Mr. Grafstein, who retired from the Senate Jan. 2 after turning 75, was a founder of CITY-TV in Toronto, while Mr. Heard, 73, worked as editor at the London Observer News Service on top of his roles at Global and the Montreal Star.

Mr. Wajsman, 55, is editor of The Suburban, Quebec's biggest English-language weekly and a Liberal insider who testified at the 2005 Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. Shortly after that, he told Montreal's Le Devoir that he planned to run for the Liberal leadership, even though Paul Martin had banned him from the party at the time.

He declined to discuss his political plans on Monday.

“We're not putting partisanship into this,” Mr. Wajsman said. “This is a standalone project, and [if] we do this, I'll be pretty happy for the rest of my life.”

Mr. Wajsman emphasized the importance of the Montreal Gazette in the local community, while also broadening its audience to include more new Canadians.

“I don't think there's anything more important than expanding immigrant-based non-Francophone communities,” he said.

“They need to be served by local newspapers, the Web is not enough, they need to be served by vigorous journalists.”

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll be canceling my National Post subscription if a Liberal senator takes control of it - that much you can be 100% sure of.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Craig I hope you know the aspers are big time liberals here in Winnipeg, so you would have cancled years ago.
Alan A.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The National Post is the ONLY member of the Canadian press with a right-wing bias. The Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen are pretty much at the centre already (actually I think they lean leftward, but I'd settle for the centre; right-of-centre, no way).

Tough times ahead for small-c I'm afraid.
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Don't expect contrarian Liberals to tilt National Post left

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