Canwest Global Marketing Chief To Resign Amid Takeover

Walter Levitt to quit once CRTC approves Shaw's takeover of parent Canwest Global's TV assets


TORONTO -- The executive exodus at Canwest Global Communications has begun with cable giant Shaw Communications about to seize control of the Canadian broadcast giant.

Walter Levitt, chief marketing officer at Canwest Broadcasting, on Monday said he will resign once the CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, approves Shaw's $2 billion takeover of parent Canwest Global's TV assets.

That CRTC nod is expected as early as this week.

"Shaw is a Calgary-based cable and satellite company with a long-serving head of marketing. In planning the integration of the two companies, Shaw and I agreed there simply wouldn't be an appropriate role for me in the new organization," Levitt said in an internal note released Monday.

The parting of the ways is amicable. Levitt said he will "be available" to Shaw through the end of November to ensure a smooth transition.

He leaves Canwest Global five years after coming on board to turbo-charge the network's branding, advertising and primetime programming efforts.

Levitt succeeded to the point Canwest Global's Global Television is now consistently filling Canada's top-ten primetime league table with popular hits like Fox's "Glee" and "House" and CBS' "Survivor" franchise in competition with arch-rival CTV.

But along the way, Canwest Global's controlling shareholders, the Asper family of Winnipeg, ran out of cash to keep the Canadian media group afloat after a string of expensive acquisitions, including in 2007 purchasing 13 cable channels in partnership with Goldman Sachs & Co.

That forced Canwest Global into court-directed creditor protection, from where Shaw is set to acquire a restructured and refinanced company.

"What's been incredible is, in spite of well-publicized challenges, this broadcasting business has continued to excel and perform, almost against all odds," Levitt said Monday.

The executive door at Canwest Global is expected to keep spinning as Shaw's expected acquisition takes hold.

Paul Robertson, president of Corus Entertainment, which is controlled by Shaw family of Calgary, is to take control of Canwest Global's TV assets as Shaw Communications' group vp, in charge of TV.

Canwest Global earlier this year had to secure permission from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to pay out retention bonuses to a couple dozen senior executives across the media group to keep them in place through the financial restructuring.

That move followed Dennis Skulsky resigning as head of Canwest Global's newspaper division, which recently completed its own successful trip through court-directed creditor protection to land in the hands of new owners.