The Shaw family has tapped a low-profile veteran of the broadcasting wars to manage its $2-billion purchase of CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s television assets.
Paul Robertson, president of Shaw-controlled Corus Entertainment Inc.'s TV division, now vaults into one of the top jobs in Canadian television, capping a rise through senior marketing and executive roles in the Canadian media industry.
Mr. Robertson is known as a methodical operator, a well-respected and easy-going senior executive who will bring to Shaw Communications Inc.'s newest acquisition detailed knowledge of the TV business, including both conventional television and more lucrative specialty channels.
As president of Corus's television unit, a position he has held since 2002, Mr. Robertson presided over growth in paid subscribers and improved ratings for the company's specialty TV channels, which include the W Network, YTV and Treehouse. Shaw Communications spun off Corus in 1999 into a separate, publicly traded company.
"He will be a beautiful fit for Shaw," Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said Monday on a conference call with analysts. "With Shaw acquiring the entire company, we have an opportunity to put somebody in there who has a tremendous operating background."
Mr. Robertson becomes Shaw's group vice-president in charge of TV and will report to Brad Shaw, chief executive office and vice-chairman Jim Shaw's younger brother.
Few in the industry were surprised by the appointment, since the relationship between Shaw and Corus has remained close despite the differences the two companies must take at regulatory hearings. JR Shaw, who founded the cable company, remains Corus's primary shareholder and Heather Shaw, his daughter, is executive chairwoman of Corus's board of directors.
In an industry where negotiations between various broadcasters, program creators and satellite and cable players are the norm - and will become even more frequent now that conventional TV fees are on the table - Mr. Robertson also brings a calm demeanour to Shaw, a company that prides itself on being brash and has been prickly with the broadcasting community in the past.
"There are a lot of moving parts to CanWest TV," said Kaan Yigit of Toronto-based Solutions Research Group, noting there are specialty and conventional assets in addition to complicated and necessary negotiations. "He has the right experience and temperament for it."
The newest addition to the family-run cable company's close-knit executive team brings 30 years of management experience, having previously worked in senior marketing roles at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising and Campbell Soup Co. He then moved to CTV Television Network Ltd., where he worked in senior marketing and programming positions.
Over much of his recent career, Mr. Robertson has worked closely with another industry veteran who is close to the Shaws - John Cassaday, who moved over from heading up Shaw's media division to be Corus's president and chief executive officer back in 1999. Both have worked at Campbell Soup, CTV and Corus.
"Paul has always followed John," one industry source said. "These two individuals are closer than what appears. So it's certainly an intriguing development from that perspective, because effectively they ... certainly become pitted against each other."
Requests to Mr. Robertson for an interview were not returned Monday. Doug Murphy has been appointed his successor as head of Corus's TV unit.
According to company documents, Mr. Robertson took home just over $1-million in compensation for his work at Corus in 2009. He keeps a low public profile, however, and is both well-liked and known to deflect praise for accomplishments onto others.
"Everyone knows him, everyone likes him," said Greg O'Brien, who runs an online telecom and media trade journal. "He doesn't go out of his way to attract attention to himself."