Shaw Communications Inc.’s chief marketing officer is leaving the company, the second high-profile executive departure in as many months, as the telecom company restructures while preparing for the departure of a quarter of its work force.
Calgary-based Shaw confirmed to The Globe and Mail Wednesday that Jim Little, who is also responsible for human resources, will leave the company on May 4. That’s the same day that chief financial officer Vito Culmone is set to depart.
Chief executive Brad Shaw and president Jay Mehr announced Mr. Little’s departure internally in late March, about a month after Shaw revealed that 3,300 employees accepted voluntary buyout offers and will leave over the next year and a half.
With Mr. Little leaving, Shaw will decentralize marketing, shifting responsibility for branding and pricing strategy to its business units. The company’s Freedom Mobile wireless division is based in Toronto, while its cable TV and internet operations are based in Calgary and divided into two units, consumer and enterprise.
“Like many of our industry counterparts, we made a strategic decision to embed marketing in each of our three business units,” Shaw spokesman Chethan Lakshman said. He added that Dan Markou, senior vice-president of people and culture, will take over responsibility for HR and said, “Concurrently, Jim made a personal decision to retire.”
The company had only expected about 650 people, or 10 per cent of those offered buyouts, to accept the packages, which it announced in January as part of a sweeping business overhaul that includes cost-cutting and a new approach to customer service that emphasizes online and self-serve support options.
However, a source close to Shaw said the terms of the severance package were generous, giving employees an extra six months’ pay on top of a sum for each year of service. Shaw also did not leave itself the option to reject the applications of those who chose to take the buyout, saying it wanted to give employees control.
The company said it will record a $450-million restructuring charge in the second quarter of its 2018 fiscal year, while payments to employees who have taken the buyout will be spread over 18 months. In the longer term, it expects to save $225-million on an annualized basis by 2020.
Shaw is set to report financial results on Thursday for its second fiscal quarter, the three months ended Feb. 28. After striking an agreement with Apple Inc. to sell the iPhone – sales of the iconic device start in December – analysts expect Shaw’s Freedom Mobile will post a large number of new wireless subscribers, with forecasts in the range of 45,000 to 50,000 in the period, compared with an average of about 30,000 per quarter over the past couple of years. But those new customers could come at a cost, as Freedom offered large subsidies on the expensive smartphone to win new business, which means profit margins at the business could be down.
Mr. Little joined Shaw in 2012 after five years as chief brand and communications officer at Royal Bank of Canada and an earlier stint at BCE Inc., where he oversaw Bell Canada’s marketing campaign with the well-known beavers Gordon and Frank.
In an e-mail to employees announcing the departure, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Mehr praised the outgoing marketing executive’s contributions, detailing the launch of several products including the company’s new BlueSky television platform, high-speed internet packages and large wireless data packages at Freedom Mobile.
“Jim has helped to build the foundation of Shaw and has played a significant role in enabling us to take this next step towards a more agile, digital-by-default organization,” the two top executives wrote.