It’s been a tough few weeks for Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI) and the Rogers family that sits on the company’s Board of Directors and controls Canada’s largest telecom operator through a trust that holds 97% of its voting shares.
When former RCI chairman Edward Rogers tried to unseat CEO Joe Natale and replace him with (now) ex-CFO Anthony Staffieri last month, the company’s board, including members of Mr. Rogers’ family, blocked him.
Soon after, the board caught wind of Mr. Rogers’ plans to oust up to 9 of the company’s 11 top executives, and consequently relieved him of his position.
Mr. Rogers, however, has asserted in court that there’s more to the story. In an affidavit filed with a British Columbia court on Tuesday, Mr. Rogers claims his original proposal to replace Natale with Staffieri as CEO of Rogers Communications garnered the support of 10 of the company’s 11 board members, including Natale himself (via CBC News).
Mr. Rogers goes on to purport that Natale turned on him while the details of the proposal were being ironed out, and lobbied to have Staffieri fired instead. Numerous members of the board pulled their backing for the proposal just days later, dismissed Staffieri from the company, and stripped Mr. Rogers of his chairmanship, says the affidavit.
The rest of Mr. Rogers’ family, however, maintains that his version of events is a complete twisting of facts.
In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday evening, Loretta Rogers, Mr. Rogers’ mother, directly invalidated his claims. “The claims Edward makes in his affidavit are as unfortunate as they are untrue,” said Loretta. “Martha, Melinda and I fully and unequivocally support Joe and believe he is the right CEO to lead RCI [Rogers Communications Inc.].”
Melinda Rogers-Hixon, one of Loretta’s daughters, said, “It is unfortunate that Edward has advanced a false narrative regarding our mother to provide cover for his misguided position to replace the independent directors of RCI by the stroke of a pen.”
“Loretta, Martha and I stand with Joe, his management team, the 24,000 employees and our customers and fans in ensuring that proper governance, in accordance with the law and our father’s wishes, is adhered to,” she added.
Martha Rogers, on the other hand, has not spoken on the record with media, but has gone on the offensive against her brother on social media. She has laughed off Mr. Rogers’ chairmanship, and says the whole situation would have been the worst nightmare of her father and RCI founder Ted Rogers.
“Money, power & control have gone to their heads,” she tweeted on Sunday about Mr. Rogers and his compatriots. “Ted knew what his son was,” she added.
Since his dismissal from RCI, Mr. Rogers has used his influence as chair of the Rogers Control Trust to construct his own Board of Directors for the company by way of a shareholder resolution, with the board he appointed reinstating him as chairman of RCI. That’s right — as of this writing, there are two sets of RCI Board of Directors, and Mr. Rogers is petitioning the courts to decide which one has legal standing.
Last week, the RCI board issued a statement deeming Edward Rogers’ resolution and appointed board “invalid”, and affirmed that no changes would be made to the Board of Directors at present.
This public fiasco continues to unravel at a stupendously important junction for RCI — the company’s proposed $16 billion USD takeover of Shaw Communications, which is currently being reviewed by the Competition Bureau.
Ironically enough, this whole saga started because Mr. Rogers believed RCI needed “a management team that is committed to this business and to closing the Shaw merger,” and didn’t think Natale was the best person to be at the helm.
In a follow up with CBC News, Mr. Rogers said, “This is a business issue. The focus should not be on our family. I ask that the media please respect our privacy during this extraordinary time.”