UPDATE: CanWest founder dead at 71


WINNIPEG - CanWest Global Communications Corp. founder and chairman I.H. (Izzy) Asper died this morning in Winnipeg. He was 71.

Mr. Asper was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital Winnipeg at approximately 9.30 a.m. this morning and he passed away shortly after in the presence of his immediate family, wife Babs Asper, sons David and Leonard and daughter Gail.

The cause of death was not announced.

Mr. Asper retired from his position of executive chairman of CanWest in January 2003, to devote more of his time to his many philanthropic pursuits, including in particular the establishment in Winnipeg of the Canadian Human Rights Museum. Mr. Asper remained active in the company as Chairman of the Board.

In anticipation of Mr. Asper's retirement, the company initiated an orderly transition of management with the appointment in 1999 of Leonard Asper as president and CEO.

Mr. Asper's successor as Chairman will be addressed by the board in due course.

"The company feels a sense of profound loss on the passing of our founder, who distinguished himself as a visionary business leader, a caring leader in his encouragement and financial support of worthy causes, and as a champion of Israel," said a release issued by the company.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family.

For more on Mr. Asper and the company he built from scratch, click here.

"There are very few Canadians who possess Izzy's rare combination of vision, determination and passion," said Glenn O'Farrell, the president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and a former CanWest executive.

"Izzy was a true Canadian Titan. He was a global leader in terms of his business vision, his remarkable philanthropy and his view of Canada in the world. He is the only individual who I ever met who described himself as a 'pathological Canadian'," continued O'Farrell.

"We in the media business were privileged to know him. His presence will be deeply missed in the many circles where he left his indelible and unique imprint. Canada and our industry have lost the voice of one of its most passionate citizens."

"We're saddened to learn of the passing of Izzy Asper," added Ivan Fecan, president and CEO of Bell Globemedia. "He was a great entrepreneur, a brilliant competitor and a true original."

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