Bell’s Buy Means Major Executive Changes And Chops At Astral

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

We’re hearing of major executive changes, as well as staff cuts at Astral after the company’s purchase by Bell, with completion of that transaction on Friday.

PrintLuc Sabbatini, former president of Astral Media Radio and Astral Media Outdoor, joins Bell as president of Bell Media Sales. He will oversee an integrated French and English sales team. Sabbatini, who will be co-located in Montreal and Toronto, will oversee all national conventional and specialty TV, national radio, out-of-home, digital and multi-platform advertising sales, brand partnerships and media creativity.

The move comes as Bell Media also launches Bell Media Mix, a new one-stop advertising opportunity for all of Bell Media’s brands and platforms.

Jacques Parisien becomes president of national specialty and pay-TV, radio and out-of-home; Charles Benoît is named president of television and radio for Quebec; and Luc Quétel is appointed president of Astral Out-of-Home.

AstralnewlogoParisien, reporting to Kevin Crull, Bell Media president, and based in Montreal, will oversee the company’s 34 national specialty, four pay-TV and 107 radio properties in English and French. He will also oversee out-of-home operations, which will retain its name as Astral Out-of-Home. Parisien is currently Astral Media executive vice-president and COO, and president of Astral Radio, and oversees Astral’s operations and growth strategy. He joined Astral in 1994, after working several years at Telemedia.

Benoît will oversee Bell Media’s French-language non-sports TV, radio and new media offerings, which will operate as one unit in Montreal. That includes programming, marketing and communications for 21 French-language and four English-language radio stations in Québec, six French-language specialty and pay channels and affiliated digital properties. In his current position as executive vice-president of Astral Radio, Benoît oversees Astral Radio’s 84 radio stations and development opportunities.

Quétel, based in Montreal, will oversee operations of Bell Media’s out-of-home network in Quebec, Ontario and B.C., with product lines including outdoor advertising, street furniture, transportation and digital. Quétel, who has extensive advertising experience with the transportation industry, founded Passeportmedia in 1998, which was bought by Astral in 2005. He is currently Astral’s vice-president business development.

André Bureau, Astral board chair, will continue his work as counsel at Heenan Blaikie. A former CRTC chairman, Bureau joined Astral in 1990 as president and CEO of Astral Bellevue Communications and has held several executive roles in the company.

Rita Fabian, executive vice-president of advertising sales for Bell Media, will depart the company in early October, after guiding the sales team through the integration process. She first joined the company in 1986.

Mario Cecchini, one of our favourite people who knows the radio industry inside out and was senior vice-president sales and marketing for Astral Radio, has left and will join Corus in September as president of Corus Media Quebec. This marks a return to Corus for Cecchini. (We note that Corus has purchased several properties as part of the deal, including some radio stations and several specialty TV stations.)

However, we are hearing of further major cuts at both Astral Media and at Astral’s corporate office, with many heads rolling last Thursday.

While we haven’t yet heard the final numbers, we know at Robert Fortier, Astral CFO, is among those gone from the corporate office, as is Pierre Roy, Astral’s president of Les Chaînes Télé Astral and MusiquePlus, who plans to retire after a 30-year career in the TV and media industry. He became president of Les Chaînes Télé Astral in 1992, and of MusiquePlus in 2007.

In addition, Claude Lizotte, whose title we believe was executive vice-president TV sales. (He had been vice-president sales and marketing, Astral Media Plus when we last spoke.) is also among those gone from Astral Media.

From what we hear, Bell is doing a major sweep. If anyone knows, we’d like to hear who else in gone.

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