Rogers Countersues Former CEO Joe Natale Amid Legal Fight
Rogers is fighting back against its former CEO, Joe Natale, with a countersuit demanding repayment of some of the severance he received. This move comes in the wake of Natale’s lawsuit for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract, initiated last month.
Natale’s departure from Rogers late in 2021 was marked by turbulence within the company’s leadership echelons. The corporation’s court filings on Tuesday accuse Natale of continuously attempting to “subvert corporate governance and his fiduciary duties for his personal gain.” The company stated, “Despite his misconduct, which constitutes cause for dismissal, Natale brings this action in a final attempt to profit at RCI’s expense,” reports The Globe and Mail.
Rogers says it owes Natale nothing further, emphasizing that he, “must now answer for his conduct and the harm he caused to the Company.” The company argues that Natale must return a significant portion of his severance that surpasses what he’s entitled to in a “with cause” termination.
Following a showdown between factions of the Rogers family and the company board, Natale was succeeded by Tony Staffieri, previously the firm’s CFO. The former CEO is pursuing $24-million in damages for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.
Last month, Natale said in his statement of claim that he exceeded expectations during his tenure, including orchestrating the $20-billion acquisition of Shaw Communications. He also maintained that he surpassed the board’s performance anticipations annually.
Natale alleges that, during a critical period for Rogers, his employment conditions were augmented to retain him amidst considerable tension within the company board. This period was significant as the telecom company grappled with internal governance issues and sought regulatory approval for the Shaw takeover.
The former exec insists that Rogers is not honouring its contractual commitments, which includes a $4-million bonus from the Shaw deal concluded in April 2023, and an additional $20-million owed to him a month post-closing. He is also pursuing undisclosed amounts linked to performance-based restricted stock units.
Adding a layer of contention, Natale seeks “punitive, moral, and aggravated damages,” alleging that Edward Rogers, the company’s chairman and primary shareholder, along with his wife Suzanne Rogers, tarnished his reputation. They purportedly commissioned actor Brian Cox, recognized for his role as Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession,” to produce a video that ridiculed Natale, which was then shared amongst their social and business circles.
Last month, Rogers said in a statement that an independent investigation found Natale committed serious misconduct as CEO, leading to his termination for cause. In October 2021, anticipating changes to the board that would end his role, Rogers claims Natale improperly awarded himself excessive compensation without board approval. This action violated his fiduciary duties as the CEO and director of a public company, said Rogers.
Although Natale was informed of the investigation, his lawsuit appears to preempt its findings, said Rogers in August. Rogers said it planned to defend itself against Natale’s claims and would file a countersuit, and here we are.