Home / Workplace Directory / CBC’s Real Estate King has left the building

CBC’s Real Estate King has left the building

It was a classic Friday announcement – unnoticed until late in the day. But it was a big one. The head of CBC’s real estate division, Michel St-Cyr is leaving. He’s “accepted an offer in the private sector,” according to CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix, who implies this is part of a new direction. Let’s hope so.

“Michel’s departure gives me the chance to push forward with my review of the structure, roles and responsibilities of the Senior Executive Team,” according to Lacroix’s note.

St-Cyr was a creation of former CBC CEO Robert Rabinovitch. And what a creation he was! Within months of his arrival, a whole real estate division at CBC sprouted (needless to say, the public broadcaster had never had a real estate division) and grew until it had a staff of 50 and its own communications director.

St-Cyr reported directly to Rabinovitch as “president” of the Real Estate division, bypassing the VPs of the media divisions. Real Estate was the Power!!!

The impact of the Real Estate grip on CBC decision-making and the mantra of “monetizing” the public broadcaster’s space cannot be underestimated.

Desks were measured with a view to squashing as many people as possible into some newly leased space too small for the numbers (look at CBC Ottawa, Edmonton). Real Estate staffers were shocked when we dared to suggest that media employees needed different types of space than the cookie-cutter call-centre model. The idea seemed alien to these designers and architects who no doubt had workspace appropriate for their needs.

Real Estate Power precipitated the layoff two years ago of 80 people who made sets, costumes and other elements of TV production at CBC Toronto. They happened to work in what was then considered valuable and large basement space in the heart of the city. Needless to say, the space still sits empty and producers of CBC programs have to get their sets built by outside contractors. The Real Estate folks? They’re still on payroll, of course.

Further, there are many who believe Real Estate was the real catalyst for radio-TV integration because of the compression of workspace that would come with it. The idea was uttered at a corporate real estate conference several years ago. Couldn’t be true, could it???

Some people credit St-Cyr and Rabinovitch for creating a cash flow for the CBC when it needed it. But while the Real Estate empire was growing, the real crisis facing the CBC was being masked by the rush of Real Estate cash: no one was screaming about the woeful underfunding of the public broadcaster as a whole, not while the “quarter billion dollars in value” was being created. (It’s never been clear whether that value credited to St-Cyr was one-time value or ongoing money that can be counted on.)

In any case, here we are eight years after the creation of the Real Estate Power, with a $171M shortfall that Real Estate can’t fix, 800 layoffs on the horizon, and an unleased partly empty building in Toronto. There’s no word on whether St-Cyr will be replaced, but if Lacroix wants to send a real signal to his employees and to Ottawa that he’s trying to renew the public broadcaster, let’s hope St-Cyr’s position is “monetized” in order to save a few of the jobs slated for layoff.

Find Member Resources

Popular Topics

Scroll to Top