Allan Slaight

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Allan Slaight
Born John Allan Slaight
(1931-07-19) July 19, 1931 (age 87)
Galt, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Media Mogul
Known for Founder of Slaight Communications and former owner of Standard Broadcasting
Former Co-owner of the Toronto Raptors
Home town Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s) Ada Mitchell (1950–1987)
Emanuelle Gattuso (1995–present)
Children 3

Allan Slaight (also J. Allan Slaight) (born July 19, 1931) is a Canadian rock and roll pioneer, media mogul, and philanthropist. From his beginning as an amateur magician to his career spent in radio, Slaight rose to become the President of Global Television, president of Slaight Communications, and the president and CEO of Standard Broadcasting Corporation Limited, Canada's largest privately owned multi-media company. Slaight is Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Slaight Communications and an active philanthropist serving as founder of the Slaight Family Foundation.

Biography[edit]

Early years (1931–1947)[edit]

John Allan Slaight was born in Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario, Canada to Florence Eileen Wright and John Edgar (Jack) Slaight, a newspaperman who worked for the Galt Evening Reporter (now Cambridge Reporter).[1] His family (including Slaight's younger siblings Brian and Ann) moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan when his father Jack bought the Moose Jaw Times-Herald in 1945.[2] Jack Slaight was also the eventual co-owner of Moose Jaw radio station CHAB-AM, one of Canada's first radio stations.[3]

Magician (1940s)[edit]

An avid magician since his youth, Slaight honed his skills starting at age eight, when a trip to Toronto at Christmas time sparked his imagination about the wonders and secrets behind magic after becoming mesmerized by Johnny Giordmaine's performance at the Toyland section of Eaton's department store.[4]

His fascination with the elegance of sleight-of-hand and what Slaight himself terms "the brilliance of inventions"[5] resulted in a robust job as a performer touring Western Canada as mind reader "Will Powers", and where he performed a large scale magic show under the "Slaight & Co" banner.[6] His travelling magic show would often see him spend 14 hours away from home visiting small towns to perform for $10.[7] Slaight's travelling magician's show was no doubt inspired from his early days in the 1940s performing for his grandfather's staff at a local bank in Galt for $2,[8] or his regular performances at conventions and at the Rotary Club in Moose Jaw.[9] So prominent was magic in young Slaight's life that he toyed with the idea of performing on a permanent basis, and would have done so, Slaight later admitted, had it been profitable.[8]

Instead, Slaight, married to his wife Ada Mitchell in 1950 when he was 19[7] and with three young children to support (Gary b. 1951, Greg b. 1953, Jan Marie b. 1954), combined his entrepreneurial spirit and his showmanship savvy to enter the world of radio.

While Slaight focused his talent for showmanship in the realm of broadcasting, magic continues to be ever present in Slaight's life. In an interview with the Globe and Mail in 2005,[8] Slaight proudly showcased his extensive library of magic trick books. The collection numbers in the thousands of volumes and is one of the single largest collections on the craft.

Slaight is the author of a number of magic titles including Stewart James in Print: The First Fifty Years (1989), The James File (3 Book Set) (2000), the largest work ever published on magic, let alone on the magic of one man, and Essential Stewart James (2007). Slaight co-hosts an annual magicians conference, 31 Faces North, with performing arts organization Magicana (Artistic Director David Ben) every summer. It is an annual invitation-only event inspired by and meant to resurrect the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie seen in the once-held magicians event (The Ibidem Event) hosted by P. Howard Lyons.[10]

Slaight's own magic tricks (the Magnetic Miraskill, OTWONE Prediction and others) can be found in most magic magazines from the past 50 years such as Ibidem, Genii – The Conjurors' Magazine, and Magic – The Independent Magazine for Magicians.[11] Slaight's contributions to the world of magic were acknowledged by Magicana when he was presented with Spins and Needles: The Magic of Allan Slaight, a hardcover book celebrating 62 of Slaight's own magic tricks.[12]

Business career[edit]

Radio days (1948–1966)[edit]

CHAB[edit]

Slaight began his broadcasting career in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1948 at age 17 as an on-air news reporter and announcer for his father's station CHAB.[13] His late night jazz program, Spins and Needles,[14] whet his appetite for the radio industry, which, through the next five decades, would become his life.[15] "I had never been inside a radio station before. But after one short visit to CHAB, I realized radio was what I wanted to do with my life," Slaight said in a 2002 interview.[16]

Slaight arrived at the University of Saskatchewan in autumn 1949 to uphold a bargain he made with his father. In exchange for working the one year at CHAB, Slaight was required to attend university. While at the University of Saskatchewan, Slaight worked as a columnist (A Sap's Fables) and jazz reviewer for the college newspaper, The Sheaf.[17] Slaight dropped out of his studies at the University of Saskatchewan after his first year and balanced his burgeoning broadcasting career with his travelling magic show.[7]

CFRN & CJCA[edit]

In 1950, Slaight and his wife Ada moved to Edmonton, Alberta.[9] Unable to find a job in radio, Slaight sold shoes at the Eaton's Department store before finally joining radio station CFRN that same year as a news reporter before leaving to join CJCA in 1952.[18]

CHED-AM[edit]

In 1954 Slaight joined Edmonton-based radio station CHED-AM as the station's News Director.[19] Two years later in 1956, Slaight was appointed Merchandising Director.

CHUM-1050 Ltd: music and talk[edit]

In early 1958 Slaight was hired as program and promotions manager for Toronto-based CHUM radio station.[20] CHUM had earlier turned to rock and roll to achieve a larger listenership and it was hoped that importing Slaight from Edmonton would allow CHUM to reach the number one spot on Toronto's radio waves.[21]

Slaight was so successful in instituting and shepherding CHUM towards a new format that CHUM dethroned Toronto's top radio station CKEY (now CHKT).[21] Slaight's emphasis on talk radio was unlike any other radio station of its time. Slaight insisted that while CHUM would still focus on rock and roll, the station would play music during the day that would appeal to housewives and drivers who found number one station CFRB too bland.[21]

By 1960, Slaight had been promoted to become CHUM-AM's Program Director, a position that he held until 1964.[22]

His passion for programming served him well when in 1965, Slaight was appointed to become the Vice President of Radio CHUM-1050 Ltd and elected to the board.[22] Responsible for all programming and operations of CHUM-AM and its sister station CHUM-FM, Slaight remained with CHUM-1050 Ltd until 1966 when he and his family left the country for England.

English radio waves[edit]

With Terry Bate (of Stephens & Towndrow, a sales promotion company in Canada),[23] Don McKenzie and Saundra MacKenzie, Slaight travelled to England to establish a sales agency for Radio Caroline. Radio Caroline had been founded by Ronan O'Rahilly in 1964 to overcome the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly. "Unlicensed by any government for most of its early life, it was a pirate radio station that never actually became illegal, although after the Marine Offenses Act it became illegal for a British subject to associate with it." The station operated beyond the 12-mile limit off the English coast broadcasting from International Waters on a ship, and aired rock music and commercials (not broadcast by BBC Radio) into London.[24]

Slaight's purpose in relocating to England was to co-found a consulting firm for the communications field in terms of sales, merchandising and advertising of what would be, a burgeoning field in English commercial radio.[21]

But the acceptance of commercial radio was still years away in England and Slaight returned to Toronto in 1967.

Canadian companies (1967–1984)[edit]

Slaight returned to Toronto in 1967 with a renewed passion to own his own radio station. Upon his return he formed Allan Slaight Limited, a company engaged in advertising and communications.[25] He then established a strategic partnership with Stephens & Towndrow for his company to act as consultants in Programming, Sales and Marketing. Stephens and Towndrow was a sales firm which placed commercials with radio and TV stations.[7] They represented 18 AM and FM radio stations throughout Canada and had been acquired by Canadian broadcasters from CBS Radio. By September of that same year, Stephens & Towndrow publicly announced that Slaight was to be appointed President and Managing Director.[26]

Slaight Broadcasting Ltd.[edit]

In 1970, Allan Slaight founded Slaight Broadcasting Ltd. and raised $2.5 million to buy radio station CFGM-1310 AM (previously known under the call sign CJRH and now known as CFMJ:AM 640). Slaight had put a second mortgage on his house and sought out investment partners including Gordon Lightfoot, by guaranteeing them a generous return on investment should they back him.[27]

On December 14, 1970, approval was given for Slaight Broadcasting Ltd. to purchase CFGM Broadcasting Ltd. from owners John Graham and Stewart Coxford.[28] The following year in 1971, Allan Slaight took ownership of CFGM.[28] CFGM, at the time, was Canada's first full-time country and western music station.[28] It wasn't until an application was made in 1976 that CFMJ's frequency was moved to 1320 kHz.[28]

On July 13, 1972, Slaight was granted permission by Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to acquire 80 per cent holdings of Montreal-based station CFOX-AM. Upon ownership, Slaight changed the format to "new country music" to match CFGM.[29]

After receiving federal permission on May 22, 1973, Slaight Broadcasting Ltd. merged with IWC Communications (originally Industrial Wire and Cable) on July 1, 1973. The merger resulted in Slaight acquiring other cable media systems in Mississauga, Barrie, Orillia, and Sarnia-based radio station CHOK,[30] while retaining CFGM Broadcasting Ltd. and Radio CFOX Inc. Slaight had previously bought into IWC in 1970, becoming a shareholder.[28] CFGM Broadcasting Ltd continued as a subsidiary of IWC Communications Ltd.[31]

Global Television[edit]

After becoming president of a company running three radio stations and three cable systems, Slaight made a $12 million bid in early 1973 to acquire 52 per cent of Bushnell Broadcasting of Ottawa, Vancouver, and Toronto. The CRTC rejected the bid on March 26, 1973.[7] But, the following day, Slaight was pleased to find out he and the board of directors had been given permission to acquire the fledging and debt-ridden Global Television Network that had been founded by Al Bruner.[7]

On April 15, 1974, under a restructuring and re-financing plan put forward by a group of investors, Allan Slaight purchased a 45 per cent interest in Global Communications Ltd, along with Global Ventures Holding Ltd. (45 per cent) and Seymour Epstein (10 per cent).[32]

At the age of 42, Slaight was tasked with restructuring Global out of the red. Global was at least $5 million in debt and losing an estimate 1.5 million per month.[7]

Part of Slaight's strategy to turn around Global was to broadcast movies five nights a week at the 6:30 time slot with the news broadcast at the earlier 6:00 PM time. Slaight also incorporated a number of imports and reruns from the US.[33] While Slaight also had to layoff employees, he doubled the amount of broadcast time devoted to news and public affairs.[34]

In 1974, Slaight authorized a rights offering of IWC's shares where proceeds would be used to finance a portion of Global Communications Ltd.[35] Slaight also was granted approval from the network's original public investors to change voting power and repayment terms so that he could better financially negotiate for the September television line-up.[36]

It was during this time that Slaight proposed loosening CRTC Canadian content quotas for independent broadcast stations compared to other affiliates[37] and vigorously advocating for rules that would benefit smaller broadcasters. Slaight, for example publicly "oppose[d] the intrusion of any Canadian provincial government into any sector of Canadian broadcasting," when a probe on violence on television was launched for what Slaight considered to be a PR stunt.[38]

By December 1976, Slaight had successfully navigated Global out of debt and the television station had reached a break-even point in its day-to-day operations.[39] In an ambitious move, Slaight and IWC exercised a "buy-sell clause" on December 22 to buy out its investment and financing partners Global Communications Ltd. and Seymour Epstein.[39] Collectively, the two partners held 55% of Global's holdings.[40] Instead, Slaight and IWC were bought out by Winnipeg Theatre tycoon Paul Morton.[39]

Radio IWC Ltd.[edit]

As a result of the buy-out, IWC's holdings were reduced significantly in the industry and in 1977 IWC prepared to sell off its controlling interest of its broadcasting holdings to Selkirk Holdings Ltd. (one of Canada's largest broadcasting companies at the time),[41] and to sell off its cable television assets to Credit Valley Cable TV/FM Ltd.[42] The CRTC denied the radio-related application but approved the cable application.[43] In the wake of the ruling, Slaight distributed over $10 million among shareholders (the net proceeds from the sale of Global Communications Ltd.) and successfully requested to change the company's name to Radio IWC Ltd.[43]

In 1978, Allan Slaight made a bid for all the common shares outside of Radio IWC Ltd. essentially becoming IWC's largest shareholder.[31] At the time, he owned 14 per cent, with Allpak Products Ltd. controlling 36 per cent.[44] Under the new agreement, Slaight acquired another 42 per cent (including 36% from Allpak Products Ltd and 6% from Joseph Mac-Brien),[45] and purchased CFGM Broadcasting Ltd. (CFGM and CILQ-FM) from IWC Communications Ltd. in 1978 following the sale of his interest in the Global Television Network and IWC's cable interests.[28] He renamed Radio IWC Ltd to Slaight Communications Inc. the following year.[16]

CILQ-FM/Q107 Rock[edit]

In 1976 Slaight applied for a CFGM-AM renewal licence and asked the CRTC to consider an FM licence for a sister station. Slaight proposed that the new station would offer an ombudsman service for listeners and include other services such as consumer reports.[46] The station, operating on bandwidth 107.1 was licensed that summer and Q107 debuted on June 1, 1977 with offices operating from Toronto's Hudson Bay Centre, 30th floor and transmitting from the CN Tower.[31]

Urban Outdoors[edit]

In 1982, Slaight bought controlling interest in Urban Outdoors, the second largest outdoor advertising business in Canada. The company specialized in backlit outdoor advertising in Canada's 20 largest markets.[47] The pairing of outdoor advertising with radio seemed a natural fit to Slaight who stated that the business was "about as recession-proof as any business."[48]

CBC[edit]

In early 1985, Slaight and a group of businessmen proposed a controversial idea, that of purchasing the CBC's English language TV network. Under the privatization plan, private business interests would have transformed the CBC's English TV network to a profit-oriented business and would have reduced Canadian content from 74 per cent to 50 per cent in prime time and 60 per cent overall.[49] Prime Minister Brian Mulroney definitively stated that CBC was not for sale. Slaight nonetheless saw the endeavour as an exercise to expose waste at the CBC.[50] "But if we can expose what some of us see as scandalous waste at the CBC, I think we will have done a decent thing for the taxpayers."[49]

Slaight Investments and Standard Broadcasting (1985)[edit]

In July 1985, Allan Slaight acquired Conrad Black and Montegu Black's Hollinger Argus Ltd.'s 49 per cent stake in Standard Broadcasting Corp.[51]

Acquiring Standard Broadcasting Corp. was a battle for Slaight as Selkirk Communications Ltd. also submitted a tender for the company.[52] Scuttled by the CRTC, which ruled that Selkirk was ineligible to buy Standard,[53] Selkirk redoubled its efforts and came back with a private bid that was higher than Slaight's. Selkirk's offer divided the Hollinger's Board of Directors with the 12 independent members suggesting tendering the bid to Selkirk and the five Hollinger-appointed directors recommending Slaight. Selkirk once again raised their offer, requested a bid extension, and issued a premature press release that angered Hollinger Argus. After a failed Supreme Court of Ontario bid by Selkirk to extend the bid deadline, the deal with Slaight proceeded. Conrad Black rejected Selkirk's bid primarily due to Slaight's willingness to sell off his current holdings to be in compliance with CRTC regulations.[54] Black desired to sell off his broadcast holdings quickly and without entanglements.[55]

In total, Slaight acquired 84.8% of Standard shares in his tender for an estimated $110 million.[54] The deal saw Slaight's acquisition of two of Canada's oldest and most popular radio stations, CFRB (1010) and adult rock CKFM (99.9) as well as radio and TV stations in Montreal, Ottawa and St. Catharines.[56] Due to CRTC regulations, the deal also required Slaight sell Q107 (managed by son Gary) and CFGM (managed by son Greg) to Westcom Radio Group of Vancouver.[57] Under CRTC rules, broadcasters were prohibited from owning two AM or two FM stations in the same city.[56]

The acquisition of Standard Broadcasting brought CFRB, CKFM, CJAD-AM, CJFM-FM, Capital Radio in London, CJOH-TV,[58] and CKTB and CJQR (St. Catharines)[59] within his domain in addition to his then current holdings.[24]

"I put in $20 million in equity and borrowed $175 million from Scotiabank to acquire Standard Broadcasting in 1985. Although the CRTC approved the purchase, there were two dissenting votes. Both of these commissioners were concerned as to the viability of CFRB because it was an AM Station," Slaight recalled.[24]

What emerged from the acquisition was Slaight's promise to increase Standard Broadcasting Corp.'s financial support for the promotion of the Canadian recording industry, and spending $15,000 at CKFM sponsoring Canadian musicians.[57] Despite this, there were concerns among the listening public of the acquisition.

Slaight revitalized CFRB by computerizing CFRB's newroom,[57] introducing phone-in shows, a supper-hour newscast, and more contemporary music that deviated from the older standards, eventually transforming CFRB into an all-talk format. Slaight himself returned to his radio roots and assumed responsibilities of CFRB's programming when his hired man, Peter Shurman, resigned.[60] The station has been in the top rankings since that time and Slaight paid the $175 million debt off in nine years.[24]

Allan Slaight summed up his approach to business after the acquisition:

"But the key to success here or at any station is never to be fully satisfied with your sound. It's incumbent on us to keep making adjustments and refinements as we change with the times. We'll never sit back on our butts or our laurels again."[61]

Continued growth (1985–present)[edit]

In 1988, Slaight diversified Standard Broadcasting by branching out into production and program syndication with the launch of Sound Source Networks. Sound Source Networks was Standard Broadcasting's syndication division delivering content and targeted programming.[62]

In that same year, Allan Slaight sold CJOH-TV (Ottawa), an affiliate of CTV so he could focus on expanding his radio holdings for Standard Broadcasting. The decision was prompted by a 1987 CRTC ruling in which the CRTC awarded a new TV licence for the Ottawa area. Both CHUM and Baton Broadcasting eagerly entered the bidding race, which encroached on Slaight's own Ottawa-based CJOH franchise.[63] When Baton pitched "National Capital Television," a patriotic showcase for Canadiana and Canadian content viewing that would spend $31 million over five years on Canadian programming,[64] the CRTC awarded Baton the Ottawa licence. Slaight, angered, appealed to the Federal Cabinet, citing that the "decision ha[d] the potential for changing the face of Canadian broadcasting."[65] But instead of opening a competing Ottawa station, Baton approached Slaight and offered to buy CJOH for a premium price of $85 million.[66] Slaight accepted, and Baton surrendered its awarded licence to the CRTC, having used the licence acquisition as a bartering chip against Slaight.[66]

On April 8, 1988, the CRTC approved the purchase of CJOH by Baton Broadcasting Inc., with the transfer taking place May 5, 1988.

In the 1990s, Slaight continued expanding the company's acquisition base, acquiring CFCN-AM, CJAY-FM (from Calgary), CFRN-AM and CJKE-FM (from Edmonton), CKZZ-FM (Vancouver), CISL (Richmond).[67] By July 2000, Standard owned 12 stations.[68] By early 2001, Standard owned 35 radio stations.[68] In June 2001, Standard Broadcasting acquired 64 radio stations from Quebec's Telemedia Corp., which was owned by the de Gaspe Beaubien family.[16] The station acquisitions included four stations in London, Ontario, three in Hamilton, Ontario and three in St. Catharines, Ontario.[68] Two months later, Standard Broadcasting sold 29 of those stations before receiving regulatory approval for the original Telemedia buy.[16]

The acquisition quadrupled Standard's holdings. At that time, Standard's portfolio included radio stations, video distribution and duplication, electronic game distribution, advertising, post-production services in video and audio and retail marketing.[24]

While Slaight had handed the reigns of day-to-day operations in 2001 to Dave Coriat, CFO, and son Gary Slaight, CEO, Allan Slaight is quick to point out that his authority still prevails. "If I really resist something, it generally doesn't happen," Slaight admitted.[16] Coriat agreed when interviewed, citing Allan Slaight's impeccable timing and business instincts, calling Slaight the "ultimate entrepreneur" who can quickly calculate potential return and "controlled risk-taking."[16] "He's not about to blow the money he's worked so hard to earn," Coriat said of Slaight.[16]

In 2002, Standard acquired Iceberg Media.com Inc, an internet radio portal providing music for Web sites. The acquisition complemented Standard's existing portfolio as they held a minority interest in Moontaxi (a jazz and classical music online radio service) and MapleCore Ltd. (an e-commerce portal selling concert merchandise and tickets).[16]

In 2003, Standard held a 30% interest in Canada's first licensed "Urban" station, Milestone Radio Inc. and an equivalent interest in Haliburton Broadcasting Group Inc. that consisted of nine Ontario stations, a group of rural Alberta stations and a Calgary-based jazz station, as well as a number of other interests (Sound Source Networks, Video One, Instore Focus Inc, Professional Warehouse Demonstrators, Canada Post Transfer Corporation).[68]

In 2004, Standard Radio joined with CBC/Radio and SIRIUS Satellite Radio to bring satellite radio to Canada.[69]

In 2007, Allan Slaight authorized the sale of Standard Radio Inc. to Astral Media Inc. in a $1.08 billion deal. The negotiation saw Slaight taking one-fifth of the purchase price of Astral stock ($880 million cash), giving Slaight a non-voting stake (4.75 million class A non-voting shares) in the company of 8.7 percent.[70] The sale did not include Standard's interests in Sirius Satellite Radio, Iceberg Media, Flow 93.5FM, Haliburton Broadcasting and Newcap Inc. in Alberta.[71]

After the sale of Standard Broadcasting, the company, once again became known as Slaight Communications.

Legacy[edit]

After 52 years involved in radio as a broadcaster, News Director, Manager, Merchandising Director, Program and Promotions Manager, Programming Director, Vice President and President and the "father of rock radio in Toronto,"[59] Allan Slaight stepped down as President and CEO of Standard Broadcasting Corporation, and assumed the position of Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Slaight Communications, after having created Canada's largest privately and solely owned multimedia company, with annual revenues exceeding $500,000,000 and the employer of 1,500 full-time employees and 6,000 part-time employees.[68]

When asked in an interview what his desired legacy would be, Slaight responded, "I would like to have the company regarded as the finest radio group in Canada with the finest executives and the finest staff."[24]

"Shotgun" Slaight[edit]

Allan Slaight was not just involved in broadcasting. In the early 1990s, he partnered with John Bitove Jr. to launch the Toronto Raptors, the first NBA franchise outside of the United States.[72] Slaight, like Bitove Jr. held a 39.5 per cent share with the Bank of Nova Scotia holding 10 per cent, Isiah Thomas (9 per cent) and other minority holding partners.[73] Brought together by former Ontario Premier David Peterson (1 per cent holding), Slaight and Bitove were persuaded that Toronto was a market ready for an NBA franchise. When they pitched the NBA, they included in their presentation plans for a state-of-the-art downtown arena dedicated to the Raptors.[74]

Slaight and Bitove eventually disagreed on this very arena, with Slaight calling it "financial suicide" to build a separate stadium without the Maple Leaf hockey franchise who publicly declared to build their own arena, meaning two rival buildings. The Maple Leafs were willing to share the majority of the cost burden and have the Raptors act as a junior, tenant.[75] Eventually, Slaight invoked the "shotgun clause" in his ownership deal, essentially forcing either Bitove or Slaight to buy out one another with a 60-day limit to pay the cash. Slaight prevailed and reluctantly bought out Bitove, whose passion for the Raptors was evident but declined the offer.[76] On November 15, 1996, Slaight gained 79 per cent control of the Raptors. "It's exciting, nervous-making and at the same time very proud. It's a big financial exposure. Anything of this magnitude would make any sane individual nervous – and I still have some sanity," Slaight said.[77]

The move was controversial to some, including General Manager Isiah Thomas, who himself had declared interest in gaining majority ownership. Considered by many in the press as a more appropriate owner because of his basketball credentials, Thomas and his backers (David Thomson, son of Lord Kenneth Thomson) failed to meet Slaight's price and conditions for his share of the Raptors, and resigned as General Manager.[78]

Though Leafs Chairman Steve Stavro publicly declared having little interest in moving the Maple Leafs to the proposed new arena, the Air Canada Centre at the foot of Bay Street,[79] Slaight insisted that the "city need[ed] a two-team building."[80] With Slaight contractually obligated to build the NBA arena (lest he pay $75 million in fines), and Stavro in negotiations with Slaight, land for the Air Canada Centre was purchased in November 1996 at Bay Street and Lakeshore Boulevard.[81] Shovels went into the ground February 5, 1997[82] with an official groundbreaking ceremony held on March 13, 1997,[83] Ultimately the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan led the buyout of Slaight from the Raptors and Air Canada Centre, putting the two teams in one building and insuring the financial viability of Toronto's new home for sports and entertainment and rebranding the business as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

Philanthropic activities[edit]

Slaight has a long history of philanthropic activities in a number of health and arts related realms. Slaight's ethic of philanthropy was summarized in an interview conducted in 2001. "I've done pretty well by Canada and by Toronto, and I very strongly believe you should give a lot back."[84]

  • In 1998, Slaight's radio stations helped raise and donate over $1 million for various Canadian charities. CFRB 1010 and Mix 99.9 raised $510,000 during the Sick Children Telethon. The Bear 106.9 FM raise $40,000 for the Rock Auction for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Edmonton's Bear 100.3 FM announced a $100,000 family apartment suite for those with patients in the neo-natal unit. Z95.3 FM and Oldies 650 raised $288,000 for cancer research.[24]
  • Slaight has donated $5 million to the Transformation AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) Campaign.[85] A Frank Gehry-designed central staircase is named after Slaight for his donation.
  • In 2008, Slaight founded the Slaight Family Foundation along with trustees David Coriat and Gary Slaight.[86]
  • In 2009, Slaight and his second wife Emmanuelle Gattuso donated $22 million to create a rapid diagnostic centre for breast cancer awareness.[85]
  • In 2009, Slaight donated $75,000 for three years to The Walrus to create the Allan Slaight Writers' Fund to support serious journalism.[87]
  • In 2009, the Shaw Festival acknowledged Slaight's continuing support of the organization since 1982 by renaming The Academy (the professional training, play development, publishing and education wing of the Shaw Festival) to The Slaight Family Academy.[88]
  • In 2013, Slaight donated $18,000 to restore a grand piano that belonged to Fats Domino that had been damaged in Hurricane Katrina.[89]
  • In 2013, Slaight donated $50 million to the Princess Margaret Hospital for cancer research.
  • In 2014, the Slaight Family donated $3 million to OCAD University to honour his first wife, Ada Slaight (whom he divorced in 1987). The donation was to fund scholarships, improve studio space and create a Chair position honouring Ada Slaight's commitment to OCAD through her volunteer endeavours.[90]
  • In 2015, Slaight donated $2 million to the National Ballet of Canada to fund a production of Le Petit Prince.[91]
  • In 2015, the Slaight Family Foundation (the charitable foundation named after Allan) donated $7 million to support seven Canadian non-governmental organizations: Stephen Lewis Foundation; War Child; Free the Children; Right to Play; Human Rights Watch; Partners in Health Canada; World Vision.[92]
  • In 2015, the Slaight Family Foundation donated $250,000 to be distributed over five years for magicians in five categories for the Allan Slaight Award: Lifetime Achievement Award ($15,000); Sharing Wonder Award ($15,000); Sharing Secrets Award ($10,000); International Rising Award ($5,000) and Canadian Rising Award ($5,000) in honour of Slaight's personal passion for the craft.[93] 2015 winners have included Johnny Thompson (Lifetime), Penn & Teller.[94]
  • In October 2015, Allan Slaight founded the Allan Slaight Radio Institute through his donation of $3 million to the RTA (Radio and Television Arts) School of Media at Ryerson University. In addition to providing a state-of-the-art broadcast and teaching facility, a number of renewable student entrance awards were newly created to support student productions.[95]
  • On an ongoing basis, Slaight Communications funds the Allan Slaight Honour, which recognizes the achievements of young Canadians making a positive impact in the field of film, literature, visual art, sport, philanthropy, music.[96] Past winners have included Nikki Yanofsky (2010), Drake (2011), Melanie Fiona (2012), Carly Rae Jepsen, (2013), The Weeknd (2014), Shawn Mendes (2015), Brett Kissel (2016), & Shawn Hook (2017)
  • Slaight Communications awards an annual Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award to entertainers who embody the humanitarian and philanthropic spirit of Slaight himself. Past winners have included Sarah McLachlan (2011), Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida (2012), Simple Plan (2013), Bruce Cockburn (2014), Bryan Adams (2015), Nelly Furtado (2016)
  • A $2-million donation from The Slaight Family Foundation was given to Carleton University in Ottawa to create a Chair for the Study of Conjuring Arts in late 2017.[97]

Public service and distinctions[edit]

Throughout his career, Allan Slaight has held a number of honorary positions, directorships and chairmanships.

  • Trustee of Women's College Hospital (1978–1982).[14]
  • Director of the United Way of Greater Toronto (1979–1987)[14]
  • His contributions have included organizing two fundraising concerts by legendary rock group Rush, and organizing a Platinum Blonde benefit at Maple Leaf Gardens in cooperation with United Way President Gordon Cressy in 1985.[98]
  • Served as Campaign Chair in 1985, breaking then-set fundraising records by raising at least $29.5 million, 11.9 per cent more than in 1984.[99] The 11.9 per cent increase is the highest year over year increase in the United Way's history.
  • Director of the Shaw Festival (1982–1988)[14]
  • Served as board member of The Shaw from 1982 to 1988[100]
  • Served as the 1985–1986 Chairman of the festival[101]
  • Governor of York University (1986–1987)[102]
  • Chairman of Friends of Harbourfront[103]
  • Director of the Festival of Festival (1989–1993)[14]
  • In 1997, Slaight was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Broadcast Hall of Fame (1997).[104]
  • In June 2000, Slaight was the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Commerce from Ryerson Polytechnic University.[105]
  • In 2001, with the approval of Queen Elizabeth, Slaight was appointed to become a member of the Order of Canada.[14]
  • In 2005, Slaight was the recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award.[14] Presented at the Juno Awards, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) honoured Slaight for his contributions to the music industry. Slaight was lauded for "his never-ending dedication to the Canadian radio industry," by CARAS President Melanie Berry.[106] Artists such as Gordon Lightfoot and Ronnie Hawkins considered Slaight influential for Canadian music. "Before we had any Canadian content rules, Allan went to bat for Canadian artists," said Lightfoot.[107] Ronnie Hawkins stated of Slaight that "He spent a lifetime working…to help Canadian music and make it better. Everyone in music in Canada owes Al, especially me. He and his associates started pushing rock 'n' roll before anybody else in Canada."[107]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Ben, David. 2013. Slaight, Off Hand: The Astonishing Journey of Media Mogul Allan Slaight. Toronto: Magicana.
  • Albright, Michael and Allan Slaight. 2008. Spins and Needles: The Magic of Allan Slaight. Forward by Max Maven. Toronto: Magicana.