Entertainment

Philanthropist, media magnate Allan Slaight dead at 90

Canadian broadcasting mogul Allan Slaight, whose support of the country's arts scene made him an ubiquitous name at venues and events — including the Juno Awards — has died.

Broadcasting mogul funded many parts of the Canadian cultural industry, particularly music

Allan Slaight (R), pictured here with longtime friend Gordon Lightfoot (L), congratulates Lightfoot at an awards ceremony in Ottawa on Oct 30, 2001. Slaight died at his Toronto home on Sunday at the age of 90. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Canadian broadcasting mogul Allan Slaight, whose support of the country's arts scene made him an ubiquitous name at venues and events — including the Juno Awards — has died.

Family friend David Ben said Monday that the rock 'n' roll radio pioneer and prominent philanthropist died at his Toronto home on Sunday at the age of 90.

The Galt, Ont.-born media magnate funded many parts of the Canadian cultural industry, particularly music, and helped build up Toronto's venerable music radio stations CHUM and Q-107.

He took the helm of Global Television in the 1970s, and in the 1980s took over Standard Broadcasting Corporation Ltd., where he remained for decades. He also had his own radio broadcasting company, Slaight Communications.

Slaight was also influential in sports: in the early 1990s, he was part owner of the Toronto Raptors.

Slaight is seen speaking at a Toronto Raptors news conference on Nov. 21, 1997. Slaight, who was an early owner of the basketball team, said he had full confidence in the future of the Toronto Raptors. (The National/CBC Archives)

The Slaight Family Foundation and Slaight Music, now run by son Gary Slaight, have supported charities related to health care, at-risk youth, the arts, international development and social services.

Organizations including the Junos, Canada's Walk of Fame, Canadian Music Week and Hot Docs have benefited from Slaight support — and named awards and funds after him.

His name is also emblazoned on a Massey Hall auditorium in Toronto and the Radio Institute at Ryerson University's RTA School of Media.

'A lot of work behind the scenes'

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa said the Slaights have been particularly supportive of emerging artists and "had an incredible interest and impact with Indigenous artists" in the past few years.

Heather Gibson, the NAC's executive producer for popular music and variety, noted the family has supported her program as well as the centre's Indigenous Theatre and #CanadaPerforms, a pandemic relief fund for professional Canadian artists.

"When there's a crisis, they've always been very supportive," Gibson said in a phone interview.

"And they've never really been that organization or family that needs to have the shine, if you will. They do a lot of work behind the scenes, a lot of work that people don't see, and I'm sure that that kind of ethos came from Allan Slaight."

Building a radio empire

Born John Allan Slaight in 1931, he began his career as a touring magician before following in his father's footsteps in the media business in Moose Jaw, Sask., and then in Edmonton.

He worked his way up the ladder as a news reporter and announcer in the radio world, eventually becoming program and promotions manager at CHUM Radio in Toronto and turning around the fortunes of the then-fledgling station in the 1960s.

Through Slaight Communications and Standard Broadcasting, he built a radio empire with dozens of stations.

Slaight's honours included an induction into the Broadcast Hall of Fame and appointment as a member of the Order of Canada.

Gibson said the Slaights are among "a select few" families who support arts and culture at this level in Canada — and they do it "so openly and warmly."

"I suspect that ethos, that approach, even though it likely came from his dad, I'm sure it will continue," Gibson said, calling Slaight "a very important Canadian."

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