Columnist image
Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg


Two hundred and twenty-four pages. That's how deep an observer had to dig into a sworn affidavit by Edward Rogers to find the presentation he delivered to the previous generation of the board at Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI) as he attempted to orchestrate a change at the top of the company in September.

The presentation painted the picture of a telecommunications giant that stumbled under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Joe Natale and underperformed its peers.

Mr. Rogers tried and failed back then to replace Natale with then-Chief Financial Officer Tony Staffieri. But he got his way Tuesday night.

RCI announced in a press release late in the evening that Natale left his roles as president and CEO, and that he's being replaced on an interim basis by Staffieri. The company added that its board has launched a search to identify a permanent CEO with a mandate to lead the integration of its planned $20-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.

"I thank Joe for his leadership and contributions to our company, including paving the way for our future together with Shaw,” said Mr. Rogers in a release.

“While Joe is moving on, we have an experienced interim CEO and leadership team who will continue to focus on the business, return to stability, and closing our transformational merger with Shaw.”

It's a homecoming for Staffieri, after his abrupt departure in late September, which was announced just one week after Mr. Rogers' presentation to the board.

Staffieri's exit was the first domino to fall in a chaotic period for RCI as details emerged of how Mr. Rogers battled with family members who sit on RCI’s board and other directors over the company’s future and the management team that would be in charge.

Mr. Rogers at one point was ousted from his role as RCI's chair, only to subsequently avail himself of his power as chair of the Rogers Control Trust, which holds almost 98 per cent of the company's voting shares, to single-handedly replace five of the company's directors. That led to an unprecedented situation where two sets of directors were claiming to be the rightful board. That dispute was settled on Nov. 5, when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick confirmed that Mr. Rogers was within his right to exercise his power as chair of the Rogers Control Trust.

In a statement Tuesday night, Mr. Rogers' mother, Loretta Rogers, as well as his sisters Martha and Melinda maintained their support for Natale and said they opposed the board’s decision to push out Natale, which they described as a “termination.”

"The three of us voted against this misguided decision, which creates great uncertainty for RCI and its employees, customers, sports fans and shareholders, not to mention the Shaw transaction.

“This is simply another instance in which Edward has placed his desire for unchecked control over RCI ahead of basic good governance and responsible corporate stewardship. Joe's contributions to RCI have been numerous, and he has served as an exceptional leader.”

Next up for Mr. Rogers and RCI’s management is pursuing regulatory approval for the Shaw deal. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission begins a week-long hearing into the takeover on Monday. That process will unfold as the risk of management distraction causes some concern on Bay Street.

“It remains to be seen whether any members of senior management opt to depart sooner than later over coming weeks,” said National Bank of Canada Financial Markets Analyst Adam Shine in a report to clients Wednesday.​

“While the prospect of potential management changes may not necessarily be well-received by all stakeholders, Tony Staffieri is a long-serving and respected Rogers executive and many might argue that a move now is more optimal than one at the closing of the Shaw deal likely next spring and ahead of the important integration thereafter.”

Security Not Found

The stock symbol {{StockChart.Ric}} does not exist

See Full Stock Page »