The family drama at Rogers Communications Inc. continues to play out ahead of a legal hearing in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.
The saga, which has spilled out of the boardroom and into the public eye, has gripped Canadians’ attention as questions remain over who will direct the telecommunications titan.
Experts say the family drama needs to cool as it won’t solve the issues at hand, especially in the lead-up to Monday’s hearing.
Here’s a look at the central figures in the Rogers family drama.
The saga begins with 52-year-old Edward Rogers, who was ousted as chair of the corporate board last week after attempting to remove CEO Joe Natale. Edward, using his position as head of the Rogers Control Trust, the controlling shareholder of the company, fought back and said he would remove five board members and substitute them with his own appointees.
His new, five-member board elected him chair on Sunday. The company has disputed that move, and it will now play out in B.C. court, the province in which Rogers is incorporated.
Edward, who is the only son of late company founder Ted Rogers, said in a legal affidavit filed Tuesday that he lost confidence in Natale to lead the company through the acquisition of Shaw Communications, a $26-billion purchase and the largest deal in the company’s history.
The board, which includes members of his family, eventually rejected the move and reaffirmed support for Natale.
“Depending on what happens Monday … it may be the case that Mr. Edward either is able to replace the five directors or he is not,” said Richard Leblanc, professor of governance, law and ethics at York University.
“If he is, then it is likely that Mr. Natale will be shown the exit door shortly after that.”
Joe Natale has held his role as president and CEO of Rogers since 2017.
Natale has previous telecommunications experience, working at rival Telus and holding several titles including president and CEO.
One of the key moments in the saga was when Edward’s plan to replace Natale with CFO Tony Staffieri, who later resigned on Sept. 29 without a reason given by the company, fell apart.
In Edward’s legal affidavit, he said the board green-lit his plan to replace Natale with Staffieri on Sept. 24, but they reversed course two days later and authorized the termination of the CFO.
Edward claims he initially had the support of the board, including that of his mother Loretta Rogers and sister Martha Rogers, to replace Natale.
However, Loretta disputed this in her own statement issued Tuesday.
Matriarch Loretta Rogers, widow of Ted, sits on the corporate board and control trust.
While Edward said he had her support, Loretta claims her son and board director Alan Horn gave her inaccurate information about Natale’s performance as CEO.
She said she changed her position after consulting with other directors and getting more information. Loretta said she, Martha and her other daughter believed Natale was the right CEO to lead the company and complete the Shaw deal.
In an Oct. 24 joint statement, Loretta said she and other board members “unequivocally support” Natale and his management team, and that “no other group of individuals has any authority” to act as the corporate board.
Loretta also told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday that Edward’s affidavit claims are “as unfortunate as they are untrue.”
“Mrs. Rogers been put in a very difficult position, having to choose between standing with her daughters or her son,” said Richard Powers, national academic director of the directors education program at the Rotman School of Management.
“(But) we have back and forth here; it’s really hard to get a feeling of the true story.”
Martha Rogers perhaps has been the most vocal in the family dispute, with her series of tweets over the last week gaining lots of attention.
Martha, who sits on the board and trust, and who also holds a doctor of naturopathic medicine degree, has suggested that her brother step down and has called him out numerous times.
“Don’t care you’ll come for me, you have 3 wks straight, & we still get up every time you knock us down. My mother−the co-founder−is 82, what gentlemens. We’ll spend every penny defending the company, employees & Ted’s wishes, nothing you can do will deter us. Bring. It. On,” she tweeted on Saturday.
“Ed will lose. His play date tonight with the Old Guard is another waste of time. Rogers & its assets are bigger than any one interest. My father understood that. He’d be so disappointed to see how Ed & his puppet masters are behaving destroying the company he built,” she tweeted on Sunday.
Powers said her tweets are not alleviating the crisis.
“Why would you feed the media with these tweets, which just prolong the discussion but also continue to polarize one side versus the other?” he said. “I don’t think the tweets are helpful in any way whatsoever.”
Time for ‘adult behaviour’
Both Powers and Leblanc agree Rogers needs to put its family drama behind and get back to business.
According to Leblanc, those involved need to reach consensus in order to resume operations. If not, some might have to consider standing down.
“This needs to be shut down after the ruling on Monday as quickly as possible, and family members need to rally behind the successor board, whichever board that may be,” he said.
“Relitigating and undermining and not getting past and not letting go will absolutely wreck a board at the best of times.”
Tough business implications of Rogers family feud
He added the drama needs to cool down in the lead-up to the hearing.
“This is not going to be settled in public, it’s not going to be settled on Twitter … this is now in the hands of the court, which is totally appropriate,” Leblanc said.
“Adult behaviour and mature confidence by directors of public company boards needs to be exhibited up to and including and especially beyond the ruling on Monday.”
— With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters
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