Sigh, Aspers won’t go away

You know, when the blind, failed king Oedipus was humbled by his hubris, the people of  Thebes gently led him away from the plagued city. So can someone gently lead the Aspers away from Canwest? It’s in today’s ROB: “Aspers bid to reclaim newspaper chain.” It’s too depressing to link to. Shouldn’t there be a law that when you crater a company, destroy its share value to pennies and sink it into bankruptcy, you should just leave and let someone else resurrect it?

Ack! No! A thousand times no!

So, the Report on Business says that Paul Godfrey is looking at bidding on the CanWest newspapers. Good. Maybe responsible management can save them. But this quote kills me:

“The group also includes at least six top CanWest executives willing to run the operation if the bid is successful. “If you take the list of 10 top executives … at least six or seven of them are there,” said one source familiar with the proposal.”

Good grief. Fire the entire board and executive suite, which ran the company into bankruptcy and saw its stock price plummet from $23 a share to $.23 a share before being delisted because it was, well, bankrupt. Can’t anyone see this emporer has no clothes and shouldn’t be rewarded for the dire strait this company is in? Please, Jimmy Pattison, buy it all, then whack all the deadwood. And slash, don’t slice.

Report on Business, Feb. 10 2010

Canwest not paying bills

Attached is a story about how Canwest is not paying freelancer writers, except after some duress and arguments with the court. I also know a guy in Regina who took a package from Canwest from their most recent round of layoffs and was advised he could have it lump sum or over several months. He chose several months. Bad choice: he got a letter saying Canwest was broke and he wasn’t getting anything more. I’m not a bankruptcy expert, but shouldn’t there be some simple human consideration for those who suffer from dumb management?

CBC, February 9 2010

Canwest papers: break em up and let local values thrive

Many stories on an effort to buy just three CanWest dailies: Toronto (aka The “National” Post), Ottawa and Montreal, as well as rumors of Alberta’s sovereign wealth fund wanting to buy the two Alberta dailies, and Jimmy (The Ax) Pattison buying the BC dailies. CanWest (why does it even have a voice in this?) is saying it wants to sell the papers as a block to build on those wonderful synergies that have resulted in bankruptcy. I say break em up, get out of the national/monopolistic mode, and go back to the Southam model: local papers run as independent entities reflecting local values, with some sharing of news/features when it makes sense. This might be a golden opportunity for Canadian newspapers to reflect their local characteristics, not the national ones directed from Winnipeg (why, for example, should two pages of the business section of my local CanWest paper, the Leader Post, be a goddamn reprint from the previous day’s Financial Post?) And they wonder why people aren’t reading them.

Toronto Star, January 18 2010

Banks to Asper: we’re in charge now

I guess he still has an office somewhere and thinks he’s in charge of something, but Scotiabank straightened him out: the lenders are in charge and are going to get their money back regardless of Leonard Asper’s opinion. The Globe gleefully reported an exchange between the bank and Mr. Asper today on the front page of the Report on Business today. Give the Black Knight credit for spunk, but the truth is the old management is done.

Globe and Mail, January 11 2010

Canwest to layoff another 120

Buried deep down in the story about Canwest’s ongoing financial woes is a note that “According to  the filings, Canwest intends to reduce those numbers (of 5,300 employees) by 120 as part of overall restructuring in the current fiscal year.”

Here’s a thought: why not start reducing those numbers from the top, and just work your way down the executive organization chart? After all, these are the bright minds that bought into convergence a decade ago, purchased properties at too high a price (hence their onerous debt load) all the while babbling management-speak about synergies and launching from multiple platforms. After all, in the free market place, shouldn’t bad management pay the consequences of their errors?

“Our Publishing group with a geographic footprint encompassing print, online and mobile audiences and reaching across this country is strong because of the synergies we’ve found by working together, leveraging our strengths and centralizing services that take significant costs out of the business,” said (CEO Dennis) Skulsky, who is now reporting to an independent committee off the Canwest board.

Financial Post, Jan. 8 2010

20 sharks circling Global remains

As CanWest’s bankruptcy goes forward, 20 companies are going over Global TV’s books to see if it’s worth buying (it’s actually not; the creditors/debtors are looking at pennies on the dollar to recover their investment.) There’ll be a separate sale for the newspaper group. Anyway, one interesting suitor is the Pattison Group. Hmmmm, Jimmy Pattison has a well known habit of taking command by firing the new firm’s least competant employees. If my name was Asper, I’d be nervous.

Report on Business, Dec. 3 2009

“It’s just a flesh wound” mentality alive and well at Canwest

Well, there they go again. Saturday’s National Post contained a front page editorial proclaiming their financial success, all the while they are in bankruptcy proceedings filing court documents detailing their dismal financial straits. It’s not that I want to see the National Post go down (the last four pages of the front section are the best editorial commentary in English language media.) I just wish they faced up to their financial straits, and found a buyer who can pay down the debt and keep the media business going.

New York Times, via Media Decoder, October 31 2009

It must be Hallowe’en….

…. because Canwest has risen from the dead. A judge agreed to whatever legal/economic reasons necessary to move the National Post in with Canwest’s newspaper group, thus allowing the “national” (it only delivers in four provinces) newspaper to live again.

Bloomberg, Oct. 30 2009

Death watch begins for Asper era at CanWest

The Globe reported it this morning, and CTV is confirming it: either the Aspers get outside financing, with the condition that the Aspers leave the corporation, or CanWest goes bankrupt, in which case the Aspers lose all control of the corporation. They’ll probably fight it to the end, but the options are grim. Bankruptcy is not a bad option; it allows the corporation to continue while the creditors figure out how to get their money back, and as long as money is coming in, it’s better than closing it down.

In a CCAA filing, creditors would take the reins at CanWest, and the Asper family’s control of the company, based in part on a dual share structure, would disappear

CTV, February 20 2009