Rogers replaces Joe Natale, appoints Tony Staffieri as interim CEO

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The chairman of Rogers Communications Inc tightened his grip on the Canadian company with the appointment of his confidant Tony Staffieri as the interim chief executive on Tuesday, replacing Joe Natale, with whom he had a quarrel.

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The development comes after the telecommunications company earlier this month reinstated ousted President Edward Rogers after a court upheld his petition to form a new board.

The company said Natale left the company, effectively on Tuesday, and the search for a permanent CEO has begun.

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Natale’s departure delivered another twist to the turbulent few weeks at Canada’s largest wireless airline, after a disorderly feud in the founding family spilled over into the public and sparked a bitter battle for control of the board.

A rare public battle to shake up the Canadian corporate world was sparked by the question of who should lead the company and weigh in on the shares.

Some analysts have cast doubt on whether the uncertainty will affect Rogers’ proposed $ 20 billion bid for rival Shaw Communications – its largest takeover.

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The dispute began in September after Edward Rogers, the only son of late founder Ted Rogers, tried to oust Natale from the CEO’s position, saying he had lost faith in Natale’s ability to lead the company through the Shaw merger.

Edward Rogers wanted to replace Natale with Saffieri, the then chief financial officer of the company, but he did not win board support and this resulted in Saffieri leaving the company. But Edward Rogers’ attempt to replace the CEO put him in conflict with his mother and two sisters, who are company directors.

Edward Rogers lost in the power rivalry and was removed as Rogers’ president. But he asked the British Columbia Supreme Court to validate the new list of directors he had appointed, and the court ruled in his favor.

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“Tony is among the most highly regarded and experienced telecommunications executives in the industry and has been a key part of the Shaw deal,” Edward Rogers said in a statement.

Saffieri has more than 30 years of experience in the telecom, media, sports and financial sectors, including nine years as Rogers ’chief financial officer. Prior to joining de Rogers, Staffieri held senior positions at BCE Inc.

Rogers Communications director Robert Gemmell said in a statement that following the court ruling, the board was working to establish a “constructive working relationship” to see Natale remain CEO with the closure of the Shaw merger. But a mutually acceptable arrangement could not be reached, resulting in Natale’s departure, the statement added.

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The board battle has weighed on the company’s shares, which have gained just 2% so far this year, compared to a 17.6% jump in BCE and a 14.5% increase in Telus Corp, both rivals of Rogers.

The unique ownership structure in Rogers gives the president enormous power. Under the structure, 10 people close to the late founder, including his four children and a widow, and several longtime family friends, sit on an advisory committee of the Rogers Control Trust. The trust owns 97.5% of Class A voting shares in Rogers.

The company said the merger process with Shaw is continuing to progress, and Rogers and Shaw’s teams will meet with Canada’s telecoms regulators and attend a public hearing on Nov. 22.

The news was earlier reported by The Globe and Mail.

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