Ian Greenberg .Image credit: BCE
Ian Greenberg .Image credit: BCE

RIP: Media Pioneer Ian Greenberg

Quebec media entrepreneur Ian Greenberg who co-founded and then headed Astral Media, died Monday (January 10) at age 79 in his hometown of Montreal.

Greenberg, along with his brothers Harold, Sidney, and Harvey, co-founded Astral Media, Inc. in 1961. They took out a $15,000 loan from the future father-in-law of Sidney and named their business Angreen Photo Inc., in honour of their late mother. It was initially focused on photographic processing – drawing on the previous work experience of two of his older brothers – and was based inside Miracle Mart department stores. The brothers secured exclusive rights to sell photo merchandise at Expo 67 held in their hometown.

They eventually made their business, since renamed Astral Communications, a public company in 1974.

It took over the Pathé-Humphries motion picture lab that same year and renamed it as AstralTech. The company expanded into other business areas, such as the production and distribution of films and television shows. Although its early productions were mediocre, the sex comedy Porky's (1982) became the highest-grossing Canadian movie at the North American box office for two decades until My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002.

The success of Porky's enabled Astral to have more room to manoeuvre financially, and the Greenberg brothers quickly divested from film production in favour of pay television.

After Harold's death in 1996, Greenberg assumed control of the company as president and CEO. He gradually transformed the company, which had begun as a photographic specialty business, into a pure-play media company (in the 1990s), focused on television, radio, out-of-home advertising and digital media properties. The business was again rebranded in February 2000 as Astral Media.

As CEO of Astral Media, he made the bet of transforming Astral Media into an integrated media company (radio, specialized TV, display) able to offer advertising convergence to its advertisers. He also banked on the development of specialty TV channels in the 1990s and 2000s. It was a successful gamble: under his leadership, Astral experienced 17 consecutive years of growth before being sold to Bell as part of a 2013 transaction valued at $ 3.38 billion. It is still the most expensive transaction in the Canadian media industry.

A member of both the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame and the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, in 2007, he received the Ted Rogers and Velma Rogers Graham Award for his significant contributions to Canadian broadcasting.

– Sources: Wikipedia, Montreal Gazette, and La Presse

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