Year Born: 1943
Year of Induction: 2008
Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Greenberg, Ian (1943- )
Ian Greenberg was born in Montreal in 1943. In 1961, he and his three brothers, Harold, Sidney and Harvey, founded Angreen Photo Inc., which was licensed to manage the photo finishing concession in Miracle Mart stores. In 1963 the company became itself involved in photo finishing by acquiring Bellevue Photo Labs in Montreal, later expanded to Toronto and Calgary. In 1967, the Greenberg brothers acquired exclusive rights to sell photo products on the Expo ’67 site, plus souvenir slides sold world-wide. This gave them the strong financial backing they needed for their future plans.
As the company progressed, Ian graduated from Harvard Business Schools’ Advanced Management Program, and developed his role in the financial area of the brothers’ operation, as well as becoming President of Astral Media’s Retail Photo Division. In 1968, the company first dipped its corporate feet into film production with the acquisition of Pathé-Humphries film labs, which owned film labs and a recording studio in Toronto, and was later merged with Bellevue to become Bellevue Pathé. They followed that in 1969 by acquiring a film production centre in Montreal, Associated Screen News Industries. The company went public in 1971 as Astral Communications Ltd. In 1973 Astral merged with Bellevue Pathé to become Astral Bellevue Pathé Ltd, a film and television distribution company, with Harold Greenberg as President and CEO, and Ian Greenberg on the Board and as Treasurer. He would later become President and Chief Operating Officer. The company also got into the videocassette duplication and video wholesale distribution.
Ian’s financial expertise was in constant demand as Harold began producing and marketing a series of Canadian films that included Oliver Stone’s Seizure, the phenomenal Canadian hit Porky’s, and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The company also got into videocassette duplication and video wholesaling, and went through subsequent name changes to Astral Inc., Astral Communications Inc and Astral Media Inc. In 1983, Astral acquired two pay-TV channels, First Choice and Premier Choix from First Choice Canadian Communications. These became The Movie Network and Super Ecran, and a condition of the acquisition was that Astral would get out of the production business.
Astral Media in 1986 launched FUND, the Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for Pay-television, making it the first Canadian broadcaster to set up a national non-profit private fund to support the development of film and made-for pay-TV productions. Astral launched a new specialty channel, Viewer’s Choice, in 1991. In December 1995, Harold Greenberg stepped down as President and CEO of Astral, and was succeeded by Ian. Harold died six months later.
Under Ian’s leadership, in 1996 Astral began a slow process of divesting itself of its non-broadcast assets to concentrate on “pure-play” media ownerships, and its outdoor advertising business. In 1997, Astral held a minority ownership in the newly launched Comedy Channel specialty service. In 1998, Astral launched two more specialty channels,,Canal D and Moviepix .In 2000, Astral acquired twelve radio stations in Quebec, three more in 2001, and in 2002 added 17 Telemedia radio stations in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Ian Greenberg’s masterstroke came in 2007, with the announcement of the CRTC’s approval of Astral Media Inc.’s application to acquire from the Slaight family all the assets of Standard Radio Inc., which made Astral the largest radio owner in Canada. The acquisition involved 52 stations in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., including CFRB in Toronto and CJAD in Montreal, plus two small television stations in Terrace B.C. and Dawson Creek, Yukon, and increased Astral’s ownership of radio stations to 82 in 29 markets.
Ian was always active in supporting a number of industry and charitable associations He and his brothers were awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award in 1993. He is a past national chairman of the Canadian Photo Marketing Association and served as a governor of the Banff Television Festival and the Montréal Jewish Hospital.
In 2008, Ian Greenburg was inducted to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.
On June 27, 2013, the CRTC approved the application by Astral Media Inc. to sell its pay and specialty television channels, conventional television stations and radio stations to BCE Inc. Ian Greenberg became a director of the BCE board in July 2013.
Ian Greenberg was inducted into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame on May 8th 2014.
Written by Pip Wedge