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Mar 15, 2021

Shaw mulled privatization before clinching Rogers deal: CEO

Prices likely to go higher with Rogers-Shaw deal: Wind Mobile founder


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Canada’s Shaw family hashed over every possible option for Shaw Communications Inc. -- including taking it private -- before agreeing to sell the business they founded more than half a century ago to Rogers Communications Inc.

Faced with huge capital needs to compete in Canada’s wireless sector, the family hunkered down to look at “all our strategic options,” Chief Executive Officer Brad Shaw said in an interview Monday.

Those included staying the course, taking the company private, diversifying, and looking at different ways to use its balance sheet to gain scale. “We really took the time over the last three or four months here to really make sure we understood where things were at,” Shaw said.

In the end, the family decided a US$16 billion tie-up between Scotch and Rum -- the two code names that bankers assigned to Shaw and Rogers, respectively -- made the most sense, especially after Rogers outlined its commitment to Shaw’s customers, he said. The combined company plans to spend $2.5 billion to build a 5G network in western Canada.

“The devil’s in the details,” Brad Shaw said. “We spent the same amount of time on each of those files but really started to see when we got really engaged with Rogers -- or Rum we would call it, as we have the code name for it -- it’s such a great fit.”

If approved by Canadian regulators, the Rogers-Shaw merger would be the biggest telecommunications deal in Canada in two decades, and the second-biggest ever, according to Bloomberg data, after BCE Inc.’s spinout of Nortel Networks Corp in 2000. A group of pension and private-equity funds tried to do a leveraged buyout of BCE in 2007, but the deal failed when the financial crisis hit.

Shaw’s footprint in western Canada has long been seen as fitting well with Rogers’ heft in Ontario. While the Shaw and Rogers families have long been rivals, there is also mutual respect, Brad Shaw said, comments that were echoed by Rogers’ Chief Executive Joe Natale.

The timeline “really goes back decades to the relationship between J.R. Shaw and Ted Rogers,” Natale said, referring to the founders of the two companies. “This is the next step in the long game.”