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Ian Greenberg, who led Astral Media, a media giant his family launched over 60 years ago in Montreal before it was sold for $3.38 billion to Canadian phone giant BCE Inc. in 2012, has died. He was 79.
Greenberg passed away on Jan. 10, with no cause of death announced.
“With the passing of Ian Greenberg, Canada has lost a business visionary and media legend, and we at Bell have lost a wise and affable colleague and friend. Ian inspired all of us on the BCE board with his integrity, insight and optimism about the opportunities ahead for Canadian media, and we will miss him greatly,” Gordon Nixon, chair of phone giant BCE Inc. and Bell Canada, said in a statement.
Greenberg was president and CEO of Astral Media from 1995 until July 2013, at which time he became a director of BCE in its boardroom. Before that, Greenberg was one of four brothers who founded Astral Media in 1961 as a photography store chain before the company branched out successfully into Canada’s early pay- and cable TV industries, radio, out-of-home advertising and digital media.
The sale of Astral Media to BCE capped off a long and successful business alliance between Montreal’s Greenberg and Bronfman families. In the early 1980s, Greenberg might never have entered the Canadian pay-TV business, then floundering, were it not for a much-needed investment from Edward Bronfman and Peter Bronfman.
Those investments led in part to the launch of The Movie Network, backed by its long-standing HBO and Showtime output deals, to become dominant in the eastern Canadian pay TV market. Toronto-based Paul Bronfman was the second-largest shareholder in Astral Media, when the Greenberg family cashed out in 2012 as part of their deal with BCE.
“Uncle Ian — as I used to refer to him — was one big mensch, giving caring and loving and smart support without being condescending. He always supported me through thick and thin. They do not make them like Ian anymore,” Bronfman, chairman and CEO of Comweb Corp. and a senior advisor to William F. White International, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.
Born in Montreal, Greenberg was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and with his brothers he also received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award for their support of numerous industry and charitable organizations.
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Robert De Niro