October has been a busy month for Rogers, as family drama and power struggles within the telecom company’s board of directors continue to make for some strange headlines.
Here’s a timeline to help you keep track of what’s happened so far this month on Succession: Canadian Telecom Edition.
September 29th: Rogers issues a press release announcing that chief financial officer Tony Staffieri is leaving the company. No reason is given for Staffieri’s departure.
October 8th: Alexandra Posadzki at The Globe and Mail publishes an exclusive scoop that Staffieri was, in fact, booted from Rogers, after he and company chairperson Edward Rogers — son of the late Ted Rogers, who founded the company — tried to oust CEO Joe Natale.
The plan failed — more on that in a minute — and Staffieri, who was supposed to slide into the CEO seat in this scheme, took the fall and lost his job.
Allegedly, Staffieri and Natale hadn’t gotten along for a while, and a power struggle to see who could remove the other from their position first began sometime in early 2021.
Moreover, while Edward threw his hat in with Staffieri, fellow board (and family) members Loretta A. Rogers, Martha L. Rogers, and deputy board chair Melinda M. Rogers-Hixon continued to back Natale.
October 18th-20th: Insider sources suggest that Edward Rogers is trying to reshuffle the board of directors, seemingly in retaliation for not supporting his plot to install Staffieri as CEO.
October 21st: The Globe and Mail publishes a second, extremely funny scoop. Apparently, Natale got wind — pun very much intended — that there was a scheme to unseat him because Staffieri accidentally butt-dialed him while in the middle of said scheming with Edward Rogers.
(A moment of silence to appreciate the irony of a telecom company boardroom drama where an accidental phone call is a major plot device.)
A few hours later, the Rogers board votes to remove Edward Rogers as its chair. While no longer chairperson, Edward remains on the board as a director, and fellow director John A. MacDonald is named the new chair.
Remember Edward’s rumoured plan to fire half the board and replace them with people who don’t disagree with him? Well, it turns out that was true, as that same night Edward releases a statement announcing his intentions to remove John Clappison, David Peterson, Bonnie Brooks, Ellis Jacob, and John A. MacDonald (the new chair) from the board.
October 22nd: The morning after ‘ButtdialGate,’ Rogers — the company, not the man — issues a formal response to Edward’s statement. The response, which positively drips with contempt, acknowledges Edward’s intention “to remove the majority of the independent directors of Rogers Communications Inc. and replace them with nominees of the Rogers Control Trust through a written resolution without convening a meeting of shareholders,” but emphasizes that the Company™ “is not aware of this mechanism ever having been utilized in respect of a public company in Canada.”
October 23nd: Rogers (the company) releases another statement, this time on behalf of John A. MacDonald, i.e. the new chair of the board of directors. In the press release, MacDonald reemphasizes the absurdity of Ed’s scheme to reform the board, stating that “the proposal by Mr. Edward Rogers to hold a purported Board meeting with his proposed slate of directors this weekend does not comply with laws of British Columbia, where Rogers Communications Inc. is incorporated” and is therefore invalid.
Meanwhile, Martha Rogers enters the chat to roast her brother on Twitter, referring to “Ed & his old boys club Trump cabal” and telling him to “Enjoy your pretend ‘board meeting’.”
Since Ed & his old boys club Trump cabal can leak countless articles with impunity, starting tmw (TBD) I’ll tweet every hr on the hr what’s actually happening. 24,000 employees>1.📌 Ed Rogers, Alan Horn, Phil Lind, David Robinson, Toby Hull & John Tory − we’re looking at you.
— Martha Rogers (@MarthaLRogers) October 23, 2021
Enjoy your pretend “board meeting”, Ed. Here’s your problem: it’s not legal, so I’m going to fight like hell for the 24,000 employees, 10M+ customers & ⚾🏀🏒🏈 fans. No compromises, and this time the good guys will win. #OldGuardDown
— Martha Rogers (@MarthaLRogers) October 24, 2021
October 24th: There are now officially two different groups claiming to be Rogers’ Board of Directors.
The first board includes the “duly elected” Loretta Rogers, Melinda Rogers-Hixon, Martha Rogers, John A. MacDonald, John Clappison, David Peterson, Bonnie Brooks, and Ellis Jacob. This is the legitimate board, which supports CEO Joe Natale, and is publishing statements through Rogers’ official PR channels.
The second “board” appears to be a figment of Edward Rogers’ imagination. What happened is Team Edward circulated a “press release” via Newswire claiming to come from “Rogers Communications Canada Inc.” — which is a lie, as the statement is nowhere to be found on the Rogers website.
This fantasy board consists of Jack Cockwell, Michael Cooper, Robert Dépatie, Ivan Fecan, Robert Gemmell, Alan Horn, Jan Innes, Jack Kerr, Philip Lind, Edward Rogers, Loretta Rogers, Melinda Rogers-Hixon, Martha Rogers, and, inexplicably, Joe Natale — i.e. the person who Edward is trying to oust as CEO.
The statement also flags that Edward “intends to initiate proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court” should his delusions of grandeur not be acknowledged by the company proper.
I see Ed has appointed himself the Chairman. LOL. This should be taken as seriously as if he appointed himself the King of England. #OldGuardDown
— Martha Rogers (@MarthaLRogers) October 25, 2021
October 25th: An exclusive report from the Toronto Star claims that “Edward Rogers actively fought plans to keep Masai Ujiri as head of the Toronto Raptors this summer.”
The report seemingly confirms Edward’s passion for sneakily trying to fire people and lack of business acumen, stating that he “tried to sabotage a high-performing executive with whom he had grown disenchanted — and ultimately failed in his bid because he appeared not to fully understand the governance structure of the NBA franchise.”
So why does this all matter, beyond being kind of entertaining to follow?
It matters because Rogers is currently trying to get its contentious March 2021 purchase of Shaw Communications okayed by the Canadian government.
The deal, valued at $26 billion, is still pending approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau, and the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
While Shaw has reasserted its commitment to the merger in the wake of all Rogers’ boardroom blitz, perceived instability in the company’s higher echelons could be another strike counted against Rogers.
This would be in addition to the many, many, many, many, many concerns about how the takeover could further reduce competition in Canada’s telecom market and result in higher prices/less choice for consumers.
Source: Rogers, (2), (3), (4); The Globe and Mail, (2), (3), (4), (5); @MarthaLRogers; Toronto Star
Update 25/10/2021: Added weekend events to the timeline.