Rogers CEO Joe Natale out, Tony Staffieri taking over

Rogers Communications CEO Joe Natale is being replaced at the Canadian telecom by Tony Staffieri as interim president and CEO, the company said in a statement late Tuesday.

Telecom's former CFO to assume interim role as president and CEO

Rogers Communications Inc. CEO Joe Natale is being replaced at the Canadian telecom by Tony Staffieri, the company said in a statement late Tuesday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Rogers Communications CEO Joe Natale is being replaced at the Canadian telecom by Tony Staffieri as interim president and CEO, the company announced late Tuesday.

Company chairman Edward Rogers thanked Natale for his "leadership and contributions."

"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," Edward said in a statement, referring to the company's deal for Shaw Communications.

The move, which was first reported by the Globe and Mail Tuesday night, has pitted members of the Rogers family against each other. It comes as the company is in the midst of trying to finalize the $26 billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. 

Edward's sister Melinda said she, her sister Martha and mother Loretta all voted against replacing Natale.

"Joe is a world-class telecom leader, and as we have always said, we believe he's the right person to lead RCI as chief executive," Melinda said in a separate statement. 

Natale, pictured here in 2019, had the backing of several members of the Rogers family when Edward's plan to replace him with Staffieri came to light in September. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

She went on to say the decision "creates great uncertainty for RCI and its employees, customers, sports fans and shareholders, not to mention the Shaw transaction."

"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."

Rogers Communications chairman Edward Rogers, left, and the company's interim president and CEO, Tony Staffieri, arrive for a Canadian Radio-television And Telecommunications Commission hearing in Gatineau, Que., on Nov. 22. (David Kawai/Bloomberg)

Rogers family at odds over future

Edward — the son of company founder Ted Rogers — was himself ousted as chairman in October after Natale got wind of a plot against him and alerted the board.

Staffieri, who was the company's chief financial officer, left abruptly when the plot failed.

But Edward used his power as head of the voting trust that controls 97 per cent of the company's voting shares to fire five members of the board, replace them with his hand-picked choices and reinstate himself.

He was subsequently declared the legitimate chair by a British Columbia court on Nov. 5. The case was heard in B.C. because that is where the company is incorporated.

When the B.C. court ruled in Edward's favour, the family asked the judge to delay the implementation of her ruling until they could appeal, because they were afraid that Edward would use his court win to make immediate changes to the management team that would render any appeal moot.

Edward's lawyers assured the judge that he had no intentions of doing so, so she denied the request for a stay.

In a statement on the day of his court win, Edward suggested that Natale's future was secure at the company "Mr. Natale remains CEO and a director of Rogers Communications and has the Board's support," he said on Nov. 5.

According to board member Robert Gemmell, the board "worked earnestly and in good faith" to keep Natale on the job through the closing of the Shaw deal. 

"Unfortunately, a mutually agreeable arrangement could not be reached," Gemmell said in a statement on Tuesday. 

With files from CBC's Pete Evans and Reuters