Former Rogers CEO Sues Company Amid Controversy [Update]
Joe Natale, the former CEO of Rogers, has filed a lawsuit against the telecom giant, seeking at least $24 million for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.
Natale’s tenure as CEO came to an abrupt end in 2021 following a high-profile power struggle within the company’s top ranks.
Rogers, however, has fired back, alleging that Natale had “engaged in serious misconduct.” The company accuses him of awarding himself “excessive compensation” without the necessary board approval.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, reveals that Natale is also pursuing “punitive, moral, and aggravated damages.” He alleges that Edward Rogers, the company’s chairman and controlling shareholder, along with his wife Suzanne Rogers, made deliberate attempts to damage his reputation.
One such alleged attempt involved hiring actor Brian Cox, known for his role as Logan Roy in HBO’s hit series “Succession,” to produce a derogatory video about Natale. This video, referred to as the “Viral Video” in the claim, was reportedly shared widely among Natale’s personal and professional circles and gained traction on various media platforms and social media channels.
“Edward, this is from Suzanne. Congratulations on your real-life succession at Rogers Communications. And also, having Joe Natale to f*ck the f*ck off. Well done, Edward. Congratulations.” said Cox in the video.
⚡Succession star Brian Cox records Cameo video message for Rogers chair Edward Rogershttps://t.co/7ASiJjQUQT
*This video contains profanity pic.twitter.com/h2RqzrZbQL
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) January 12, 2022
Rogers, in a statement to The Globe and Mail, defended its decision to terminate Natale, citing an independent investigation. The company claims that Natale was aware of impending board changes that would lead to his exit as CEO. They allege that he took advantage of this knowledge to grant himself undue compensation, violating his fiduciary duties as CEO and director of a public company.
Bill Walker of MidtownPR, speaking on behalf of Natale, expressed regret over Rogers’ refusal to honour its commitments to Natale. He emphasized that Natale’s employment agreement was transparent, approved by the board, and intended to ensure stability during the Shaw merger. Walker remains confident that the courts will side with Natale.
Edward Rogers had reportedly plotted to oust Natale and appoint Staffieri in his place. Natale realized the plan through an apparent ‘butt dial’ phone call, which resulted in Edward being removed from the board.
He then utilized his position as the chair of the Rogers Family Trust, which holds sway over the company, to overhaul the entire board. He appointed his chosen directors to restore his chairmanship, bypassing the traditional shareholder meeting and vote by using a written resolution.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Edward Rogers, allowing him to regain command of the company. In a dramatic turn, Edward Rogers dismissed his mother and two sisters from the previous board, thrusting the family’s internal conflict into the public eye. In November 2021, after Natale’s removal, Staffieri took over as CEO of Rogers.
Natale received a $14.1 million ‘golden parachute’ according to documents filed by Rogers ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April 2022.
Update 4:03pm PDT: A Rogers spokesperson emailed iPhone in Canada its full statement on the matter:
An independent investigation has revealed that Joe Natale engaged in serious misconduct during his time as CEO. As a result, we have made the necessary decision to terminate him for cause.
The investigation reveals that in October 2021, Mr. Natale knew that steps were being taken to make changes to the board and this would end his tenure as CEO. Before his departure, he awarded himself excessive compensation without proper board approval. This, and other actions, were a serious breach of his fiduciary duties as a chief executive officer and director of a public company.
Mr. Natale was aware of the investigation and given an opportunity to respond. He understood the implications of its findings and the lawsuit is an attempt to get ahead of the investigation.
While we would have preferred to deal with this matter privately, Mr. Natale has left us with no choice. The company will defend itself vigorously against his baseless claim and will file a counterclaim to address his improper behaviour.