Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quebecor's CEO going, but staying in business

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MONTREAL -- The high profile and sometimes controversial CEO of Quebecor Inc. is stepping down to have more personal time, but Pierre Karl Peladeau will still have influence over his company's corporate strategy.

Peladeau, known by his nickname PKP in French and English, will remain as chairman of one of its main subsidiaries, Quebecor Media. That division includes newspapers hit by weak advertising and recent layoffs and will require some of his attention to improve it.

Peladeau said he will provide advice and leadership on strategic projects "vital" to the media-and-telecom company, but also cited family and philanthropy as reasons for stepping down.

"Because one cannot be a part-time CEO, I have decided to retire from this position and devote my life to other pursuits," he told a conference call after the company released its quarterly results Thursday.

His executive duties will be taken over by Robert Depatie, who has been president and CEO of Quebecor's cash-generating Videotron cable and Internet service since 2003.

But Peladeau, 51, also will be vice-chairman of Quebecor Inc., founded by his father, Pierre Peladeau, in the mid-1960s based on newspapers and printing. Under the younger Peladeau's leadership, Quebecor grew its cable and television subscribers, acquired more newspapers, started home phone service and launched a wireless division to appeal to mobile phone users.

Its TVA network is the largest private broadcaster in Quebec. Peladeau also started Sun TV, a right-leaning all-news cable channel.

But Peladeau's 14-year tenure as head of one of Canada's largest media and telecom companies, wasn't without incident and controversy.

Peladeau sued a Radio-Canada vice-president for alleged defamatory remarks, in a case that was eventually settled out of court.

He also threatened legal action against the Crown broadcaster because it didn't advertise in Quebecor's French-language newspapers.

There were years-long lockouts at major newspapers Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec, which resulted in few employees going back to work.

The company's Quebecor World printing division ended up in bankruptcy and was bought by an American rival in 2009, although Quebecor still does flyer printing and distribution across Canada.

He is known as being technologically progressive and has promoted the sharing of content on all platforms from Quebecor's assets, such as television shows and magazines, known as convergence.

However, he also has been described as mercurial and doesn't appear to suffer fools gladly.

Peladeau said he does not plan "to sell any of my family's shares," and added he will spend more time with his wife, well-known TV host and producer Julie Snyder, and their three children.

"I want to be a good father to them."

Peladeau joined the company in 1985 as assistant to the president and became Quebecor president and CEO in April 1999.

CWA Canada, the union that represents workers at several Quebecor newspapers, said Peladeau leaves behind a "sorry legacy."

"Under Mr. Peladeau's watch, we have seen once proud local newspapers cut so badly that they no longer provide a quality product. That's bad for communities, bad for workers and bad for democracy," said CWA Canada director Martin O'Hanlon.

"I'd love to believe that the change will bring a commitment to quality journalism, but with Mr. Peladeau still in charge of corporate strategy, I think that's unlikely."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 B13

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