Dave Fuller, the president of the wireless division at Rogers Communications Inc., is leaving the company after a tumultuous battle for control of the telecom and will be replaced by long-time executive Phil Hartling, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Mr. Fuller’s departure comes in the wake of an explosive boardroom battle that led to the company’s CEO, Joe Natale, being ousted late last year. Tony Staffieri, the long-time chief financial officer of the telecom and media giant, was appointed interim CEO and is in the running to take over the top job permanently.
The Globe is not identifying the source because the person is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
A spokesperson for Rogers did not respond to a request for comment.
The power struggle in the middle of the wireless giant’s $26-billion acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. SJR-B-T erupted when board chair Edward Rogers first attempted to replace Mr. Natale with Mr. Staffieri in late September.
The move met opposition from the majority of the company’s board, including Mr. Rogers’s mother, Loretta Rogers, and sisters Martha Rogers and Melinda Rogers-Hixon. Mr. Staffieri exited the company instead and the board voted to remove Mr. Rogers as chair, replacing him with independent director John MacDonald.
Mr. Rogers, who is chair of the family trust that controls the Toronto-based telecom, struck back by replacing the five independent directors who had opposed him with his own slate of hand-picked candidates through a written resolution. The company’s management challenged the legality of the move, arguing in B.C. court that such a change could only occur at a shareholder meeting.
Documents filed during the legal battle revealed that Mr. Rogers had planned to promote Mr. Fuller by adding wireless chief operating officer to his title.
Mr. Fuller, who worked with Mr. Natale at Telus Corp. and was at Rogers for less than a year after taking over from Brent Johnston, said in an affidavit that he was unaware of the plan and that he did not wish to work for any CEO other than Mr. Natale.
Mr. Natale was the “best possible CEO” for Rogers, Mr. Fuller said in the court filing. “Anyone who suggests otherwise does not understand his capabilities or our business. He is the only reason I joined RCI, and I do not wish to work for any other CEO.”
His comments came after Mr. Rogers expressed concerns with Mr. Natale’s performance and the company’s lagging share price.
Mr. Fuller’s departure is the second major executive change since Mr. Staffieri took the company’s helm. Last December, director Robert Dépatie, a telecom industry veteran who was formerly the head of Quebecor Inc. and Quebecor Media, left the company’s board to become president and chief operating officer of the home and business division.
The newly created position gives him oversight of the connected home business, which offers internet, television and smart home monitoring services; Rogers for Business, which serves large, small and medium-sized enterprises; and the customer service division.
Mr. Rogers first attempted to appoint Mr. Dépatie president of the cable division in late September.
Mr. Hartling has worked at Rogers for more than a decade and has held a variety of roles at the company, including, recently, president of the connected home business. That role is currently held by Dean Prevost.
Scotiabank analyst Jeff Fan described Mr. Hartling as “a proven executive who will ensure a smooth transition.”
Mr. Fan said in a research note that Rogers started reporting improvements in its key performance metrics during Mr. Fuller’s tenure, particularly in its most recent quarter. “We believe the momentum continued into Q4 which should be evident when results are released on Jan 27,” he said.
Mr. Fan noted that Mr. Fuller’s departure is not surprising in light of the comments he made in his affidavit, and said the company’s priorities include obtaining regulatory approval for its acquisition of Shaw and arranging financing for the deal.
“As Tony Staffieri continues to settle into his new CEO role, we believe he will continue to put his mark on the executive leadership team that will extract the value from the Shaw acquisition,” Mr. Fan said.
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