By Greg O’Brien
PETER AND TONY VINER are a rare pair in the world of business, let alone broadcasting. The two brothers, separated by two years, each and on their own rose to the top of major, multi-billion dollar broadcasting businesses headed by two of Canada’s most celebrated entrepreneurs.
Peter, 67, helped the late Izzy Asper build Canwest Global into a multi-billion-dollar international media powerhouse before the company fell on hard, debt-burdened, times. Tony, 65, built Rogers Media from two Toronto radio stations (Ted Rogers’ famous first media asset, CHFI-FM, and CFTR-AM, now 680News) when he came on board in 1982 to a billion-dollar radio, print and TV enterprise.
While both are now retired (Peter in 2010 for the second time when the ailing Canwest was sold to Shaw and Tony, also in 2010), they still work part-time in the business. Tony is on the board of directors of Sirius XM Canada and Peter will soon work as the trustee for Score Media’s TV assets as it awaits the approval of its sale to Rogers Media.
Both will also be inducted into the Ontario Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame at the OAB conference on November 6 in Toronto.
Peter began his career as a sales rep in 1970 and joined Canwest in 1974. He left the company between 1984 and 1990 to head up operations for another Canadian media entrepreneur, Phillipe de Gaspé Beaubien’s Telemedia Communications. After returning to Canwest in 1990, Peter moved Down Under to head up the company’s Australian division, Network Ten, and built what was a struggling broadcaster into one of Canwest Global’s most-prized assets. Peter returned to Canada in 1997 as president and CEO of Canwest Global Television, overseeing the Asper family’s acquisition of WIC Western International Communications and later, The National Post and Southam newspaper group from Conrad Black (which altogether would become Canwest MediaWorks). He retired in 2007, but returned in 2008 as interim president of the company’s TV division and remained on board through the company’s bankruptcy and sale to Shaw Communications. He was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008.
Tony began his broadcasting career in radio in the 1970s and was instrumental in launching Q-107 in Toronto as its first general manager. He joined Rogers in 1982, running CHFI-FM and CFTR-AM, the rapidly growing company’s only media assets at the time. Tony remained at the head of the company’s media division as it added print and broadcast assets (Maclean’s, Flare, Chatelaine, Citytv, The Shopping Channel, OMNI, Sportsnet, various radio stations) through acquisitions and new license startups. He was inducted into the CAB Hall of Fame in 2003.
Cartt.ca editor and publisher Greg O’Brien recently sat down with the pair in Toronto to talk about the past, present and future of Canadian broadcasting and media.
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