Canwest's Leonard Asper makes last stand

Seeks to block Shaw from buying its television assets

TORONTO -- Former Canwest Global Communications Corp. CEO Leonard Asper is making a last stand for his lost media empire.

Asper, whose family stands to walk away empty-handed after the spectacular collapse of the Canadian broadcaster and newspaper publisher, is leading a group of dissident shareholders to ask the Ontario Court of Justice to block cable giant Shaw Communications from buying Canwest Global's TV assets for $2 billion.

"There simply has not been a vigorous and lengthy solicitation process, nor a thorough canvass of the market with respect to 100% of the equity of Canwest and it is therefore neither possible nor fair to conclude that there is no remaining value for existing Canwest equity holders," the rebel investors said in a May 25 letter to the court obtained and published Thursday by the National Post newspaper.

Canwest Global tipped itself into creditor protection in late 2009 after buckling under the weight of a $4 billion debt load.

Asper and Goldman Sachs & Co. earlier failed with a rival bid for Canwest Global after it tipped into credit protection to remain a major investor in the Canadian TV and newspaper publisher.

He eventually bowed out as CEO in early March when Canwest Global and its board supported an initial $95 million bid from Shaw for a 20% stake in the company.

That overture eventually grew to $2 billion when Shaw decided to end an escalating tussle over TV assets with Goldman Sachs by buying out the Wall Street powerhouse.

The Ontario court has set a June 22 date to possibly approve the Shaw takeover of Canwest Global, a bid industry observers generally consider a done deal after U.S. bondholders and Goldman Sachs chose to cash out and leave the stage.