Business

Guy Laurence steps down as Rogers CEO, to be replaced by ex-Telus head Joe Natale

Rogers Communications says Guy Laurence has stepped down as president and CEO, effective immediately.

Laurence with company since 2013, eventual replacement Joe Natale left Telus in 2015

Joe Natale stepped down as CEO of Telus in August 2015. He will eventually step into a new role, as head of Rogers Communications. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Guy Laurence has stepped down as president and CEO of Rogers Communications, effective immediately, the company said today.

He will eventually be replaced by former Telus CEO Joe Natale, who resigned from the Rogers rival last summer in part because of a reluctance to move his family to Vancouver, where Telus is based, from Toronto, which happens to be where Rogers is headquartered.

But Natale can't come on board just yet, as he is still bound by the terms of the non-compete clause he signed with Telus when he left. It pledges he is not allowed to work for a rival for an undisclosed period of time.

Until Natale can start, Rogers veteran Alan Horn will act as interim CEO.

'"During the transition, it's business as usual," said Horn. "We have a strong management team that will continue to execute the plan and build on the momentum we have established as we head into the fourth quarter

The news of Laurence's departure comes as a surprise to the investment community, since he had only been on the job for about three years, after coming from British wireless firm Vodafone, where he developed a reputation as a fierce competitor.

TD analyst Vince Valentini said "the abrupt CEO change will require some explanation," but he described Natale as "an excellent candidate for the role."

A statement from Rogers thanked Laurence for his work, but stressed the company's long-term vision.

"We have appreciated Guy's leadership over the last three years," said Edward Rogers, Rogers deputy chairman and eldest son of company founder Ted Rogers, who died in 2008. "He has moved the company forward ... while getting the company ready for its next phase of growth.

"On behalf of the Rogers family and the board, I'd like to thank Guy for his competitive spirit and many contributions," Rogers said.

Business model changing

The move comes at an uncertain time for Rogers, as the wireless and media conglomerate is seeing its business model change on many fronts.

Rogers recently announced the end of its Shomi streaming video service, and earlier this month, it drastically cut back the publishing schedule for many of its magazines, including Maclean's and Chatelaine.

Rogers is also entering the third year of a deal with the NHL for rights to broadcast hockey games, an expensive pact that has thus far yet to bear much fruit.

The news regarding Laurence was also announced minutes before Rogers released its quarterly results, which show its second-quarter profit fell nearly in half, to $220 million or 43 cents per share, down from $464 million or 90 cents per share.

The wireless unit, however, had its biggest revenue growth and post-paid customer additions (114,000) since 2010. And the cable unit added 30,000 new customers, which also beat expectations.

Rogers was originally scheduled to post its financial results on Thursday morning before stock markets opened, before moving the earnings release up to coincide with the news of the CEO's departure.

With files from The Canadian Press

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