Telus CEO Joe Natale resigns, to be replaced by ex CEO Darren Entwistle

The CEO of Vancouver-based telecom conglomerate Telus is stepping down from the job because he doesn't want to live in Western Canada.

Darren Entwistle returns to lead company after Joe Natale steps down

The CEO of Vancouver-based telecom conglomerate Telus is stepping down from the job because he does not want to live in Western Canada.

In a statement Monday, Telus said Joe Natale is stepping down as president and CEO of the company effective immediately. 

"Mr. Natale recently indicated that a move to Western Canada would not work for him and his family for several years and the board determined that the company would be best served by having its chief executive officer reside in the West," the company said in a statement.

Natale has led the company from Toronto since May 2014. 

At least one market watcher was puzzled by the move Monday, especially given that the company had a conference call with analysts on Friday and made no mention then of this move.

"If it wasn't announced then that means it's sudden," said Patrick Horan, portfolio manager with Agilith Capital. "And then the question becomes why?"

Horan said the notion that an executive would only realize he or she was reluctant to move after accepting a job at a company across the country is hard to believe.

"It just introduces a lot of speculation," Horan said.

But the company says there's nothing to speculate about, noting that the announcement Monday was a non-event for most of the analyst community that covers Telus. Telus shares were down a little over one per cent at $43.95 a share on the TSX on Monday.

In an interview with CBC News, Telus's chief corporate officer Josh Blair said it was always the company's intention to have executives across the country, but to have the highest-ranking executive work on the West Coast. When former CEO Darren Entwistle left the president's job in 2014, he moved up to the role of executive chairman and was thus the highest ranking executive at the company, and able to fulfil that location requirement.

When Natale came on board in 2014, there was an expectation from both sides that he may have to move West when Entwistle's three-year contract as executive chair ended in 2017.

"Joe recently indicated that a move to Western Canada would not work for him and his family for several years," Blair said. As a result, the board undertook the process that resulted in Monday's news. "Any other sort of speculation is completely incorrect," Blair added.

​Telus said Natale has agreed to serve in an executive capacity until the end of 2015 to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

That transition will see the company go back under the control of Entwistle, who had been the company's CEO from 2000 until he handed over the reins to Natale.

Under Entwistle's leadership, Telus went through a process of significant growth, especially in its wireless division, to the point that it joined the ranks of Bell and Rogers, now known collectively as the "Big Three." The company's headquarters and strongest customer penetration is in Western Canada. Bell, by contrast, is based just south of Montreal while Rogers is headquartered in Toronto.

Entwistle will be replaced as chairman of the board by Dick Auchinleck and both men have agreed to serve in those capacities on a long-term basis, the company said.

Horan noted that several high-profile executives have left Telus over the years, chief among them George Cope who left to head up rival BCE. Other BCE executives under Cope also cut their teeth at Telus before leaving the company to join Bell.

"What's going on with Telus that Entwistle can't bring anyone under his wake?" Horan asked.

Telus, for its part, notes that several of the company's top leaders have been with the company for several years. Of those who have left, "it's a sign of our great leadership development capability that many of our executives have gone on to lead other firms," Blair said. "We're becoming the GE of Canada."