Obituary

Allan Slaight, Philanthropist Who Built a Radio Empire in Canada, Dies at 90

Allan Slaight
Christina Gapic*

Allan Slaight

Broadcasting entrepreneur and philanthropist Allan Slaight, who built and sold a media empire and helped bring satellite radio and the NBA to Canada, died peacefully at home in Toronto on Sunday (Sept. 19). He was 90.

In December 2020, Slaight — who has awards, stages, scholarships and hospital funds, and more, named after him — was the only inductee to Canada's Walk of Fame, his segment aired on the entertainment TV program Etalk because there was no gala due to the pandemic. His eponymously titled CWOF award, the Allan Slaight Music Impact Honour, skipped a year but past recipients have included Drake, The Weeknd, and Shawn Mendes.

"Allan's imagination has always inspired me. He believed that anything was possible," reflects CWOF CEO Jeffrey Latimer.  "As a result, his impact is far-reaching and transcends generations. We were honored to have had the chance to recognize and celebrate Allan last year. I was moved to know that he watched the induction with his son Gary and felt the love and gratitude of a nation."

Born in Galt, Ontario, the son of a newspaperman started his career in broadcasting in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan at his dad's station, CHAB. At 19, he married Ada Mitchell, moved to Edmonton, started a family, and deejayed at various radio stations before becoming news director of CHED in 1953. He relocated to Toronto in 1958 and became program director of a fledgling rock ‘n' roll station, CHUM. He left in 1966 and his entrepreneurial run began.

He later moved to the U.K. to aid pirate radio station Radio Caroline, then returned to Canada to help the ailing Global Television, set up Slaight Communications and eventually acquired his first radio stations, CFGM in Toronto and CFOX in Montreal. In 1977, he launched a new rock station, the now iconic Q107.

In 1985, he sold the two stations and purchased Standard Broadcasting from Conrad Black, building it into the largest privately-owned network of radio stations in Canada.

In 2007, he sold Standard Radio to Astral Media for $1.08 billion (CAD). After the sale, he assumed the position of executive chairman of the board of directors of Slaight Communications, and set up The Slaight Family Foundation and La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso (named after his current wife).

Slaight was also one of the original owners of the Toronto Raptors NBA team, which played its first game in 1995. After acquiring a majority stake through a buyout of co-owner John Bitove in late 1996, he sold the team and its arena to Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. in early 1998.

Slaight was an inductee into the Broadcast Hall of Fame (1997), the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Commerce from Ryerson Polytechnic University (2000), appointed a Member of the Order of Canada (2001), and the recipient of the Juno Awards' Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award (2005).

He is survived by his wife of 35 years Emmanuelle Gattuso; his brother Brian (and his wife, Annabel); children Gary, Greg and Marie (and their partners); five grandchildren (and their partners); and several great-grandchildren.