Bidder for Canwest newspapers says well-financed

Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:57pm EST
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A group of bidders for three well-known Canadian newspapers owned by debt-laden Canwest Global Communications Corp has strong financial backing from six individuals and it is a serious bid, one consortium member said on Monday.

The consortium, which includes former Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein, said earlier it is busy preparing a bid for the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and Canwest's flagship National Post.

No offer price is being made public yet, said Quebec-based magazine and radio journalist Beryl Wajsman, who along with former Global TV executive and Montreal Star editor Raymond Heard is the third promoter of the bid for the daily newspapers.

"The people in our bid are substantial enough to go through the process," Wajsman told Reuters in an interview, but declined to name the financial backers.

No public companies are involved in the bid, he said.

He dismissed speculation that the offer was merely an attempt to push up the price of the assets. Consortium member Heard, a South African by birth, is a long-time adviser to the Asper family. Winnipeg-based Canwest was founded by Izzy Asper and is now headed by his son Leonard.

"We are not stalking horses for anyone. We are not doing this to be a magnet for money ... I assure you," Wajsman said.

Canwest, Canada's biggest media company, filed for bankruptcy protection for parts of the company last October, weighed down by some C$4 billion ($3.9 billion) in debt and hurt by a slide in advertising revenue.   Continued...

<p>The office of The Gazette is seen in downtown Montreal, January 18, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>