John White Hughes Bassett
August 25, 1915
|Died||April 27, 1998 (aged 82)|
|Occupation||Media proprietor, politician|
|Awards||Order of Canada|
Order of Ontario
John White Hughes Bassett, (August 25, 1915 – April 27, 1998) was a Canadian media proprietor.
Bassett attended Ashbury College and graduated from Bishop's University with a BA in 1936.
After fighting with the Army in World War II, Bassett ran unsuccessfully for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, in the 1945 Canadian election in the riding of Sherbrooke, losing to Liberal incumbent, Maurice Gingues. He also ran in the 1962 election in the riding of Spadina losing to Liberal candidate Perry Ryan by less than 2,000 votes.
He became a reporter for Toronto's The Globe and Mail newspaper after graduating from university. After World War II, he was hired by the Toronto Telegram as advertising director. His first experience in newspaper ownership was with the Sherbrooke Daily Record, which he bought from his father. In 1952, Bassett purchased part ownership of the Toronto Telegram. In 1960, he founded Baton Broadcasting to run Toronto's first commercial television station, CFTO-TV. A few months later, he won the television rights to the Eastern Conference of the Canadian Football League. He needed a network in order to broadcast the games. The result was the Canadian Television Network, later to become CTV, with CFTO as the flagship station. Starting in the 1980s, Bassett began a drive to take over CTV by buying as many stations as possible. He succeeded in 1997, a year before his death.
In 1957, he was named to the "Silver Seven," a committee that oversaw hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 1961, longtime Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe sold most of his shares in Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. (which owned the Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens) to a partnership of his son Stafford, Toronto Marlboros president Harold Ballard and Bassett for $2.3 million. Smythe later claimed that he thought he was selling only to his son, but it is very unlikely that Stafford would have been able to raise the money on his own. Bassett became chairman of the Gardens' board of directors, when Smythe resigned shortly after Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1962. Bassett's name appears on the Stanley Cup 4 times 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967.
In 1969, Ballard and Stafford Smythe were charged with tax evasion and accused of using Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. to pay for their personal expenses. Bassett persuaded the board to fire Smythe as president and Ballard as executive vice president. The board elected Bassett as the new president.
However, Bassett did not force Smythe and Ballard to sell their shares, and they both remained on the board. That was a serious strategic blunder on Bassett's part; Smythe was still the largest shareholder, and he and Ballard controlled almost half the shares between them. A year later, Ballard and Smythe staged a proxy war to win back control. Faced with an untenable situation, Bassett resigned and sold his shares to Smythe and Ballard.
Bassett's son, John F. Bassett, would follow in his father's path of becoming a professional sports owner; the younger Bassett was a part owner of the World Hockey Association's Ottawa Nationals, Toronto Toros and Birmingham Bulls; the World Football League's Memphis Southmen and the United States Football League's Tampa Bay Bandits.
In 1989, he was appointed for a three-year term as chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, an independent body that reports to the Parliament of Canada on the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Due to the requirements under the Official Secrets Act, Bassett was sworn into the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.
Bassett married fellow Bishop's University graduate Eleanor Moira Bradley of Sherbrooke on April 26, 1938 in the University's St. Mark's Chapel. They had three children: John, Doug, and David. After their divorce, Bassett married Isabel Bassett on July 17, 1967. They had three children (Avery, Sarah, and Matthew) and remained together until his death.