Buyers may be lining up to snag newspapers belonging to CanWest Global Communications Corp., but one acquisitive industry player won't be among them - David Radler.
In many respects, the former Hollinger executive is in the best position to bid for some of the papers, which include dailies in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa, as well as the National Post.
He's one of Canada's few remaining newspaper barons and has been quietly increasing his holdings since being released from prison last year. He is also intimately familiar with the CanWest assets, having been the former right-hand man to Conrad Black, who sold the publications to CanWest in 2000.
But when asked yesterday if he would be interested in buying back some of them, Mr. Radler was blunt: "I don't think that those that are selling will ever knock on my door."
When asked if he would like them to knock on his door, Mr. Radler said: "Doesn't that say it? If they are not going to knock, I'm saying they'll just never come to me."
Mr. Radler declined further comment on the issue, but industry sources say he would likely have trouble raising money from Canadian banks for such a large purchase. His criminal past also wouldn't help. He pleaded guilty to one count of fraud while at Hollinger International Inc., with Lord Black. Mr. Radler was sentenced to 29 months in prison and was released on parole last December after serving 10 months. Lord Black, currently in a Florida prison, and three others were also convicted of fraud, although the case is under appeal.
Mr. Radler's newspaper holdings are private, but by all accounts he appears to be doing well in a tough economic climate. His company, Alberta Newspaper Group, recently bought a small paper in Quebec called the Townships Outlet, which he plans to run out of the Sherbrooke Record, another Alberta Newspaper holding. Two years ago, he bought three dailies and five weeklies in Rhode Island, bringing his total holdings to more than 40 publications.
He and Lord Black bought many of those newspapers from Hollinger International in the 1990s through a company called Horizon Publications. Mr. Radler bought out Lord Black's Horizon share in 2006 and continues to operate the papers from an office in Vancouver.
Some other names have surfaced as potential buyers of the CanWest papers, including Paul Godfrey, the current publisher of the National Post, and David Black, who controls Black Press Ltd. (David Black is not related to Conrad Black.)
David Black has declined to comment on CanWest but industry sources say he could have trouble taking on large acquisitions. His Victoria-based company owns more than 150 publications, some of which he bought at the peak of the market.
Mr. Godfrey has also declined comment and it is unclear whether he will be able to pull together sufficient financing.
Mr. Radler won't be joining them or anyone else in the CanWest bidding. He plans to stick to his long-established practice of wringing profits out of small-town newspapers. "I do alright," he said yesterday. "Am I down over last year? No."