Jordan Banks, the president of Rogers Sports & Media, is leaving the company, according to sources, the latest in a stream of executive departures since a battle for control of Rogers Communications Inc.
Colette Watson, president of the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), will step into the role, two people familiar with the changes said. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the individuals because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
A spokesperson for Rogers Communications RCI-B-T declined to comment.
The most recent leadership change follows a battle between factions of the Rogers family that resulted in president and chief executive officer Joe Natale being replaced by the telecom’s former chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri.
Mr. Staffieri announced the departure of Mr. Banks, a former eBay Inc. and Facebook Inc. executive, in a note to staff on Friday. He praised Ms. Watson as a proven industry leader and innovator whose aim is to return the division to growth.
Ms. Watson faces the challenge of turning a profit on a $5.2-billion broadcast contract with the National Hockey League that runs to the 2025-26 season.
The pandemic has created headwinds for Rogers Sports & Media, which owns television and radio stations, including Sportsnet and OMNI, as well as stakes in baseball’s Blue Jays, hockey’s Maple Leafs and basketball’s Raptors.
Over the past two years, public-health restrictions have led to the cancellation of games, reduced crowds and game-day revenues, and caused advertisers to pull back on spending.
The sports and media division is high-profile and central to the company’s legacy – founder Ted Rogers got his start as a radio station owner – but makes a small contribution to the bottom line. In 2020, sports and media revenue fell 22 per cent to $1.6-billion as the pandemic cut into sports programming, and Rogers’ earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from the unit declined 64 per cent to $51-million.
Looking ahead, analyst Drew McReynolds at RBC Capital Markets projected the media and sports division revenue will be $2-billion in 2022, while EBITDA will be $32-million. In contrast, the analyst estimates Rogers will generate $4.5-billion of EBITDA in its wireless business and $2.1-billion from its cable operations.
Solutions Research Group’s president Kaan Yigit said the media division’s contribution will be even less significant after Rogers’ $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc., which is awaiting regulatory approval. The deal is expected to close in the first half of this year.
“The rational decision may be to cut bait and focus on home and wireless, but media is where Rogers started, so there is a deep emotional connection to it, disproportionate to its significance in terms of overall revenues or profits,” Mr. Yigit, president of the Toronto-based consultancy firm, said in an e-mail.
The price for the NHL rights, meanwhile, is likely to rise significantly when it comes time to renew them, Mr. Yigit said. “It will make the last deal look like a liquidation sale,” he said, adding that sports is one of the few programs that people watch live, which protects TV ad revenue.
Ms. Watson, who has spent three decades working for company founder Ted Rogers and his successors, has earned a reputation as a creative cost cutter. In 2015, as newly named vice-president of programming, she was initially told to shut down multicultural television stations under the OMNI banner, which were losing money. Instead, she trimmed costs by cutting 110 jobs, then successfully lobbied the CRTC for an increase in subscriber fees. In a 2018 interview with The Globe, Ms. Watson said: “I have never, in my career, missed a budget.”
Ms. Watson left Rogers to become president of the Cable Public Affairs Channel in 2019, after Mr. Banks was named head of sports and media.
She returns amid the leadership changes that have come about since company chair Edward Rogers first attempted to oust Mr. Natale in late September.
The company’s board resisted removing Mr. Natale. Mr. Rogers, the son of the company’s late founder, responded by replacing the five independent directors who had opposed him with his own slate without holding a shareholder meeting. The company’s management, along with Mr. Rogers’s mother and two of his sisters, challenged the legality of the move, but a B.C. court judge deemed it valid.
Last November, the reconstituted board voted to oust Mr. Natale and install Mr. Staffieri on an interim basis. The company announced earlier this month that the board is sticking with Mr. Staffieri after completing its executive search.
Several executives have left since Mr. Staffieri first took the helm. Dave Fuller departed as president of the company’s wireless division after stating in a court filing that he did not wish to work for any CEO other than Mr. Natale. Long-time Rogers executive Phil Hartling has taken over as head of the wireless division.
Chief communications officer Sevaun Palvetzian and Dan Golberg, senior vice-president of strategy and corporate development, have also left the company.
Rogers director Robert Dépatie, meanwhile, stepped down from the board to join the management team as president and chief operating officer of the Toronto-based telecom’s home and business division.
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