Duff Roman and Bill Evanov’s relationship dates back to Roman’s tenure as both Chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and VP, Regulatory Affairs for CHUM Radio. The relationship grew from there, with Roman consulting for the Evanov Radio Group (ERG) starting in the fall of 2009, in addition to serving as ERG’s part-time VP of Corporate Development until 2019.
The news came shockingly and unexpectedly just last Friday. Bill Evanov had passed quietly in his sleep earlier that morning. At 77, he had already built a mystique of indestructability when he “left us” briefly a few years earlier when his heart stopped during surgery. He recovered and then rehabbed, stronger than ever. He was very fortunate. Successful entrepreneurs are often considered lucky. But it’s more than that, much more. They spot opportunities that others fail to see. There is something to that adage, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Bill was possibly the last of a vanishing breed of radio barons. He is in that club with broadcasting visionaries such as Allan Waters, Ted Rogers and Allan Slaight who saw things that others missed. They marched to a different drummer – alert to the opportunities that others simply did not see. They believed in themselves and had the grit to succeed where others failed.
Bill’s legacy is the Evanov Radio Group (ERG), a network of 19 radio stations he built while fighting through the dominance of the mightiest media conglomerates in Toronto and some of Canada’s other large markets. In 1990, he crafted a program niche that to his ear was “ready for prime time” creating Canada’s first full time dance music station at CING-FM Burlington. Five years later, he took what he learned into the Toronto CMA with a blend of CHR and Dance on Z103.5 that jolted the establishment by moving into the top tier of ratings.
Bill disdained the cookie-cutter approach of his rivals. Evanov Radio to this day reflects the diversity of Canadian society in its radio formats, its hiring practices and its charitable activities. Independent Canadian musical talent has found an open door at Z103.5 and on all Evanov stations. The network line up is a unique mix. ERG operates multilingual stations in Toronto and Montreal. Top 40, Country and Modern Rock are also in the lineup. Timeless pop favourites and easy listening standards are found on The Jewel stations where Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee perform in The Lounge every evening. And it was Bill who had the vision to launch Proud FM, the world’s first and only commercial terrestrial radio station mandated to serve the LGBTQ community.
Bill was a complex guy who knew that success for the independent operator meant fast responses and nimble reflexes in the rough and tumble of today’s no holds barred media – social and otherwise. “Move Like Lightning” and “Just Do It – Make It Happen” defined his mission in this unregulated world of new technologies with no boundaries. Nevertheless, I loved the fact that he made time to widen our discussions from formats and operations to the broader arena of politics and philosophy. He had a take on everything. But most of all, he had a big heart that cared about family and the obligations of his success. The challenges of the industry or a tight economy were never an excuse to cut staff or discontinue the annual Evanov Christmas Party – and he never did.
We won’t see his like again.
Bill Evanov passed away Feb. 28 at age 77. Read more here.
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