Back in the summer of 2000, when CanWest Global Communications Corp. bought 13 large newspapers, 136 small ones, and half of the National Post, the question around Maclean’s was about which member of the Asper family—patriarch Izzy or heir Leonard—should be the focus of our coverage.
I figured the old man was well known so I decided to concentrate on the kid. I spent a couple of hours interviewing him in his Winnipeg office the day after the audacious deal was announced on Bay Street. Leonard Asper was ebullient about CanWest’s $3.5-billion purchase of Conrad Black’s chain, but even in those heady days, he was conscious of the many sagas of family fortunes blown by callow kids.
Here’s what I wrote in the magazine that week:
Izzy Asper has been acutely aware of the pitfalls of soft-hearted offspring assuming control of hard-earned family fortunes. Leonard laughs about how books on family legacies that were frittered away – from the Bacardi liquor empire to the Steinberg retail chain – are “required reading” for the Aspers. “I’ve read ’em all,” he says.
Looks like there will soon be another book to add to that shelf.