Bill Evanov, Founder and President of Canadian Radio Empire, Dies at 77

Bill Evanov
Courtesy of Bill Evanov

Bill Evanov

Bill Evanov, the founder and president of Evanov Communications Inc., which operates 19 radio stations in Canada, passed away “peacefully in his sleep” on Friday, according to a statement from his company. He was 77.

Among his many accomplishments --which led to his induction into the Canadian Music and Broadcasting Industry Hall of Fame in 2011 -- Evanov created several unique radio formats, such as The Evanov CHR/dance format; The Jewel’s light AC (broadcast over eight stations nationwide); and the world’s first LGBTQ-focused radio station, Toronto’s Proud FM, which launched in 2007.

Currently, the company’s assets also include multilingual ethnic radio stations that broadcast in over 40 languages; a Christian station; a French-language station; and country music stations.

Vasil William Evanov was born in 1942 the son of Bulgarian immigrants and rose from “incredibly humble beginnings” to get his start in radio. At first, and despite his persistence, doors kept shutting at the Toronto radio stations until one man gave him a shot: the late radio pioneer Johnny Lombardi of then-fledgling multicultural station CHIN Radio. After just 18 months, Evanov was made vp sales.

In 1984, Evanov dipped his toe into radio ownership, jumping from three stations in Toronto to 11 across Canada in six years. Thirty-six years later, he remained independent, with 19 stations and several hundred employees, “who will miss Bill’s sense of humour, dedication to his craft and example of discipline and passion for radio,” a release states.

Evanov’s profile on his company web site hails him as a true entrepreneur: “In an age where independent radio ownership has drastically declined due to the consolidation of large corporate multi-chain broadcasters, he has stood firm and bucked the trend. It is one thing to operate radio stations, it is another to be hugely successful doing so, especially in major markets where competition from the large corporations is extreme.”

Evanov is survived by his son Paul Evanov, Evanov Communications executive vp; and daughter Kristina Evanov, the company’s special projects director. They will both continue to grow the company.

Longtime friend and colleague Tony Monaco, currently an on-air host on the Evanov-owned Z103.5, wrote a lengthy Facebook post honoring Evanov on Saturday.

"He was a pioneer, trendsetter, trailblazer and the hardest working guy in showbiz!" Monaco wrote in part, continuing, "This wasn't a 9-5 job for Bill. It was Eat Sleep Radio Repeat! He was often the first person in the building and the last to leave and worked weekends."

In a statement, Canadian label Roar Records praised Evanov's support of Canadian content laws (CanCon) that require radio stations to devote a specified percentage of their playlists to Canadian artists.

"Bill put new CanCon acts up front and on the stage! We are so deeply grateful for his unwavering support to all the CanCon artists across the nation!" the statement reads. "A spin on Z103.5 or Jewel 88.5 Toronto in North America's 4th largest market opened so many doors. There are so many people who have a career in the recording industry because of Bill and his passion for CanCon! He took the time to give artists a voice, so we could all hear them!"

Radio executive Scot Turner also paid tribute to Evanov on Monday. "Bill, like many of us, had a rebel spirit to create something that had never been done before," said Turner in a statement, continuing, "Forever grateful Bill. Brave and courageous."

A service will be held at Toronto’s Sts. Cyril and Methody Macedonian-Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church, 237 Sackville St., Toronto, on March 9 at 11 a.m.

Visitation is at Mount Pleasant Cemetery Cremation & Funeral Centres, 375 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, on Thursday from 5-9 p.m. and Friday from 4-8 p.m.