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The billionaire's boardroom battle at Rogers that descended into farce has carried out its coup de grâce.
November 17, 2021
The billionaire’s boardroom battle at Rogers that descended into farce has carried out its coup de grâce.
As expected, CEO Joe Natale been replaced by Tony Staffieri, who served as chief financial officer of Rogers until September, when he too was fired. His appointment is on an interim basis; however, Rogers said in a statement he is one of the candidates for the permanent role, which will be decided once the Canadian operator completes its C$26 billion acquisition of rival Shaw.
Natale’s ousting is the culmination of a months-long feud between members of the telco’s owners, the Rogers family. Edward Rogers, chair of the board, head of the Rogers Family Trust – which controls 97 percent of the voting rights of the company – and the only son of the late founder of Rogers, Ted Rogers, has been working overtime this year to consolidate his grip on the company. As if it needed consolidating…
His plan involved replacing Natale with Staffieri and reshuffling the board, with Rogers himself remaining as chair, of course. The idea met opposition from members of his family, including his own mother, who backed the incumbent.
Staffieri was all in favour of taking over from Natale. However, they hit a bit of a snag when during a meeting to discuss the coup, Staffieri accidentally pocket-dialled Natale who overheard everything. That’s when Staffieri was unceremoniously shown the door.
Edward’s family rallied around Natale and, with the backing of the board, removed Edward as chairman in October, replacing him with John MacDonald. Funnily enough, Edward didn’t like this turn of events much, and so he unilaterally drew up a list of new candidates in order to replace every dissenting board member with allies.
“The proposal by Mr. Edward Rogers to hold a purported board meeting with his proposed slate of directors…does not comply with laws of British Columbia, where Rogers Communications Inc. is incorporated, and is therefore not valid,” said MacDonald, in a statement in late October. “Accordingly, the purported board meeting and anything that may arise from such a meeting is also invalid. It is disappointing that the former chairman is attempting to act unilaterally without regard for the interests of the company and all of Rogers’ shareholders.”
Unfortunately for MacDonald, Natale, and Edward’s sisters and mother, the Supreme Court of British Colombia didn’t see it that way. Earlier this month it ruled in favour of the power-grabbing heir, giving him the green light to install a board of lackeys that would help him get rid of Natale. On 7 Novermber, in a one-word statement dripping with defeat, Rogers’ now former board said it would not appeal the ruling.
On Wednesday, Rogers issued what could possibly go down as the most hollow statement in Canadian corporate history: “On behalf of the Rogers family, the board and our 24,000 team members across the country, I thank Joe for his leadership and contributions to our company, including paving the way for our future together with Shaw,” said Edward Rogers, chair, Rogers Communications.
All this, while trying to complete a C$26 billion merger. And of course this begs the question: when is the film coming out?
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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