TORONTO - National Post CEO Paul Godfrey is set to oversee the troubled Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., a government official said Friday - an appointment the well-connected businessman said will not interfere with his duties at the newspaper.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has nominated Godfrey, a well-known Progressive Conservative, as chairman of the corporation where scandals over insider wins and executive expenses have dogged the Liberal government for years.
"Mr. Godfrey brings a wealth of political experience and a proven track record as one of Canada's top business leaders," the official, who declined to be named, said.
"Minister Duncan believes that his guidance and oversight will help ensure that the OLG manages its operations as effectively and efficiently as possible."
Godfrey said in an interview Friday the proposed appointment wouldn't affect his duties at the National Post.
"I'm a non-executive chairman and I will continue on as the president and CEO of the Post," Godfrey said.
"This has all been discussed with the people at the Post."
The nomination is still subject to a review by the legislature's standing committee on government agencies, and Godfrey declined to comment on his plans for the corporation while the appointment was pending.
"I'm flattered and excited about the opportunity, and I'll await my appearance in front of the committee if they so wish to see me."
Godfrey, who was also a former Toronto-area politician, took the reins at the National Post in January after leaving his post as president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ontario's gaming corporation has been under fire for years, with troubles ranging from questionable insider wins to botched scratch-and-win tickets and malfunctioning slot machines. It has been overseen by bureaucrats since August, when the corporation's entire board resigned after Duncan fired chief executive Kelly McDougald.
When it fired McDougald, the Liberal government released thousands of pages of what it called unacceptable expenses filed by lottery corporation executives.
McDougald has since launched an $8.4-million wrongful dismissal suit against OLG, the Crown and Duncan. McDougald claims she was fired because she refused make public scapegoats of other executives as the government tried to contain another expense scandal at eHealth, the agency tasked with bringing health records online.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak lauded Godfrey's political and business experience, and said he "will need all of those skills to clean up the mess Dalton McGuinty has made of the OLG."
Before joining the Jays, Godfrey headed a 1996 management-led buyout of what was then the Toronto Sun Publishing Corp., which was later purchased by Montreal-based Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) and became Sun Media.
The once-lucrative North American newspaper and television industries have been hit hard in recent years, not only because of the recent economic slowdown but because of increased competition for ad revenues and audience.
Last month, an Ontario judge allowed Canwest Global Communications to move the money-losing National Post into the division that runs its other papers. Canwest, which is undergoing restructuring, said the move is its best hope of saving the newspaper.
Reports have suggested that once all of the newspaper assets are under the same division, Canwest will file for creditor protection in that publishing division as well, ultimately preparing those assets for a sale.