Canwest Global preps bids on three titles

Citytv and ex-Global TV exec eye expansion

TORONTO -- As a fire sale of Canwest Global Communications Corp. newspapers gets under way, a consortium led by Citytv co-founder Jerry Grafstein and former Global Television exec Raymond Heard has indicated they are preparing a formal bid for three of the print division's 10 metro dailies.

A week after Canwest Global's publishing division Canwest LP filed for creditor protection, Grafstein and Heard said they will look to purchase National Post, Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen dailies.

Grafstein, who co-founded Toronto TV station Citytv in 1972, in early January retired from the Canadian Senate in Ottawa, where he co-chaired the Canada-U.S. Inter-parliamentary Group and was a proponent of closer business and trade ties between Ottawa and Washington.

Another consortium that comprises Canwest LP's five biggest creditors, including Scotiabank, has set a floor price of just under $1 billion for the print division, and aims to spark a bidding war for Canwest LP to recoup monies owed or acquire the publishing assets as part of a debt-for-equity swap.

And a third bid for the print division could come from an investor group led by Paul Godfrey, currently publisher of the National Post.

First-round bids for the Canwest LP division, which comprises 10 dailies, 26 community newspapers and related online assets, are due Feb. 26.

Scotiabank and other senior lenders forced the sale of the Canwest LP division as part of a court-directed restructuring against the wishes of Canwest Global CEO Leonard Asper.

An eventual sale of Canwest Global's newspaper division will split Canada's largest media group into two.

Canwest Media, a holding group for most of Canwest Global's broadcast assets, including the Global Television network and some cable channels, in October filed a separate application for creditor protection.

That separate court-directed restructuring is also expected to include the sale of key broadcast assets in the coming months as Canwest Global looks to get out from under around $4 billion in overall debt.
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