Leonard Asper exits Canwest Global

Peter Viner to serve as interim president and CEO

TORONTO -- Leonard Asper is stepping down as president and CEO of Canwest Global Communications as the debt-laden Canadian broadcaster and newspaper publisher moves closer to emerging from creditor protection.

Asper, whose late father Israel Asper founded the Canadian media giant during the 1970s, two weeks ago failed with an eleventh hour consortium bid that included backing from Goldman Sachs & Co. to stop domestic cable operator Shaw Communications from acquiring a controlling stake in a restructured Canwest Global.

Canwest Global in a statement said Asper offered his resignation to "avoid any concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest" as the company completes its passage through court-directed bankruptcy protection.

Asper will work as a consultant to Canwest Global until it exits creditor protection and Shaw Communications becomes its controlling shareholder, as planned.

U.S. bondholders effectively put Canwest Global in creditor protection last October to help the company get out from under around $4 billion in debt accumulated during a series of acquisitions in better times.

In his place, Peter Viner, long Israel Asper's go-to guy for corporate acquisitions and restructurings, will serve as interim president and CEO.

The media group also signaled that key divisions, including newspaper unit Canwest Limited Partnership, will continue to operate under existing respective management teams.

"I would like to thank Leonard for his years of dedicated leadership and unwavering commitment to Canwest," Derek Burney, Canwest Global's chairman of the board, said in a statement.