Dysfunctional board 'kryptonite' in Rogers' CEO search: Governance expert
A day after Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI) appointed Tony Staffieri as its interim chief executive officer, pushing out Joe Natale in the process, the next question investors and industry observers have for the telecom giant is what could happen to the company's senior management team ahead of its $20-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.
While analysts describe Staffieri as a respected manager and well-versed with RCI during his nine-year tenure as the company's chief financial officer, there is still uncertainty over whether other executives loyal to Natale will stick around to see the Shaw deal close.
"We now wait to see if Tony Staffieri turns his interim status into a more permanent role as the next CEO of Rogers or whether a completely new regime will be called upon to preside over the company's next critical chapter," said National Bank Analyst Adam Shine in a note to clients on Wednesday.
Chair Edward Rogers already outlined his plans for a major management shakeup in documents filed in a British Columbia court late last month ahead of a hearing to determine if he had the authority to appoint new directors to RCI's board without holding a shareholder meeting.
In an affidavit, Mr. Rogers said he planned to appoint two new co-chief operating officers: Robert Depatie, a company director and former CEO at rival Quebecor Inc., to run the company's cable division; and Dave Fuller to run Rogers' wireless business from his current role as president of the division. However, Fuller said in a separate court filing he would resign from RCI if Natale was dismissed as CEO, raising questions if other executives loyal to the former chief executive would follow suit.
While an RCI representative wasn't immediately available to comment on the company's current management plans, it will likely be a focus for regulators ahead of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s hearing next week to evaluate the Shaw deal. Mr. Rogers and Staffieri both plan to attend.
"I think the CRTC has to act in the public interest and they will want full disclosure of any significant management changes," said Richard Leblanc, professor of governance, law, and ethics at York University, in an interview on Wednesday.
"We might see more fallout from some senior managers that have loyalty to the former CEO Mr. Natale and they may resign as well. There are more shoes to drop next week with the regulator and governance concerns and leadership sustainability, which no doubt will come into play."
That uncertainty may also keep some investors on the sidelines until the company clarifies the status of its executive suite. RCI's shares were down about two per cent in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
"There's always turnover in executive suites or governance, but there's rarely mass exodus. You have the possibility of having a mass exodus with [Natale's] loyal followers here," said Norman Levine, managing director of Portfolio Management Corp., in an interview.
"The uncertainty just tells me as an investor, I have two safe telecom choices [with BCE and Telus] ... and you have this huge uncertain choice."
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