Cable Tech

Joe Natale out, Tony Staffieri in as Rogers CEO

Completing another big twist in the power struggle that has gripped Rogers Communications in recent weeks, the Canadian operator announced Tuesday evening that Tony Staffieri, the company's former CFO, has replaced Joe Natale as CEO.

As part of a "CEO transition," Rogers said Staffieri has been appointed as interim president and CEO effective Tuesday, November 16. Rogers Communications said the board has launched a search for a permanent CEO, adding that Staffieri "will be a candidate for this role."

That transition enters the picture nearly two weeks after Edward Rogers, the once-ousted chairman of Rogers Communications, was reinstated as chairman and his move to replace a handful of company directors was cleared by the British Columbia Supreme Court. The court sided with Edward Rogers, ruling that he was permitted to replace directors via a written resolution and without calling a shareholder meeting.

Edward Rogers, the person also in charge of the family trust that controls Toronto-based Rogers Communications, had previously tried, but failed, to oust Natale as CEO and replace him with then-CFO Staffieri. Edward Rogers' original plan crumbled after Natale reportedly learned of the plot through an inadvertent "butt dial" from Staffieri. Soon after, Staffieri stepped down after a majority of the board and others in the Rogers family backed Natale.

Now back in charge of a reconstituted Rogers Communications board, it appears that Edward Rogers will now get his wish. Plus, it would seem difficult, and not impossible, for Natale to push forward as CEO amid the roiling, contentious activity involving him and Edward Rogers in recent weeks – and with much of it all out in public view.

Rogers Communications said the proposed merger with fellow Canadian cable and mobile operator Shaw Communications "continues to move forward as previously expected." The company said the Rogers and Shaw teams, including Edward Rogers, will attend a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) public hearing on the matter scheduled for Monday, November 22.

Contention continues within the Rogers family

Tuesday's announcement did not put an end to the bad blood boiling within the Rogers family. Martha Rogers, Edward's sister and one of the members of the Rogers Communications board who had fought him, recalled in a cheeky tweet that her brother did state on November 5 – soon after the court's decision – that Natale remains CEO and "has the Board's support."

Additionally, Martha Rogers and Melinda Rogers-Hixon (Edward's two sisters) and Loretta Rogers (the trio's mother) voted against the appointment of Staffieri and issued an overall statement of disapproval to The Toronto Star.

"We are very disappointed that Edward has driven the termination of Joe Natale as RCI's CEO," they said. "The three of us voted against this misguided decision, which creates great uncertainty for RCI and its employees, customers, sports fans and shareholders, not to mention the Shaw transaction."

They added: "This is simply another instance in which Edward has placed his desire for unchecked control over RCI ahead of basic good governance and responsible corporate stewardship."

No love lost

With some (but not clearly all) of the dust starting to settle in a boardroom battle that thrust the leadership and future of Rogers Communications into a tailspin, Edward Rogers and Natale issued conciliatory statements Tuesday night.

"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," Edward Rogers said. "While Joe is moving on, we have an experienced interim CEO and leadership team who will continue to focus on the business, return to stability, and closing our transformational merger with Shaw."

"I am grateful for the opportunity to lead Rogers Communications through a critical time in its history and remain excited about the transformational potential of the Shaw transaction," added Natale, the former chief of Telus, who had been in the CEO role at Rogers Communications since 2017. "It has been a privilege to build a team of such extraordinary character and ability and I wish each of our 24,000 team members continued success and good fortune in the future."

Staffieri, who had been CFO at Rogers for nine years before stepping down in September amid the butt-dial situation, is also late of Bell Canada, Celestica International and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Staffieri "was a key part of the Shaw deal," Edward Rogers said. "The company has an exceptional set of assets and the Board has full confidence in his ability to lead Rogers during this period."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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