Telus Corp. has launched a legal action against a former executive who left the company for a more senior role at Rogers Communications Inc.'s media business.
In mid-September, Dan Golberg, who was previously vice-president of corporate development at Telus, took on the role of senior vice-president of media strategy at Rogers Media, which owns a stable of television and radio stations, magazines as well as the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.
Mr. Golberg, who is based in Toronto, worked with current Rogers chief executive Joe Natale during the latter’s time at Telus. Mr. Natale also worked out of the Telus Toronto office, including during his year-and-a-half-long stint as CEO of that company until he left in 2015.
Now, Telus is seeking an injunction from the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver, arguing that Mr. Golberg breached the terms of a non-compete agreement by going to work for a rival. Telus claims in court filings that the executive sat in on sensitive, high-level strategy meetings in August within days of announcing his intention to accept a job at Rogers.
The company claims he heard details of Telus’s plans for an upcoming auction of wireless airwaves, in which Rogers is also likely to take part, as well as corporate strategies and merger and acquisition plans more generally.
Mr. Golberg, in his own court filing, argues that he does not work for a competitor of Telus, which is solely a telecom provider and does not operate a media division. His employment agreement states that on Oct. 1, 2019, when his non-compete obligations expire, he will take on a broader corporate-development role at Rogers, but until then, he will focus only on the media business.
“We are in the business of radio, TV, publishing, online shopping and sports, including the Toronto Blue Jays, and Dan is a great addition to our team as we continue to strengthen our media business and our sports offerings,” Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media, said in an e-mailed statement, noting that the strategy function is key to help “drive growth” in a changing media landscape.
“Telus is not engaged in any of these businesses, and we have clear protocols in place to ensure he meets his obligations to his former employer,” Mr. Brace added.
Mr. Natale, who became CEO of Rogers in 2017, wrote a letter detailing this arrangement to his own former boss, Darren Entwistle, who resumed his long-time role as CEO of Telus when Mr. Natale departed. Court documents reviewed by The Globe and Mail do not indicate whether Mr. Entwistle replied.
Mr. Golberg says in his filing that the arrangement – working only with the media division for a year – is a “means of honouring his obligations to Telus,” and notes that he intends to “fulfill all of his obligations to Telus, including his obligations of confidentiality.”
The court filing also details Mr. Golberg’s efforts to win a promotion to the senior vice-president level at Telus and his frustration at not getting such an opportunity as he tried to support his three children as a single parent.
“Leaving Telus was not Golberg’s first choice. He attempted to improve his role with Telus and continue his career there. It was only when that seemed unlikely that he began to look for alternatives and it was only when it was clear that Telus was not prepared to make the role changes he sought that he chose to resign.”
For its part, Telus claims Mr. Golberg tried to “dupe Telus into providing him with a generous severance package in circumstances in which he had already secured a job with Rogers.”
There was a hearing Monday on Telus’s request for an injunction barring Mr. Golberg from working at Rogers, but Justice Robert Sewell said he would rule at a later date.
Mr. Golberg did not reply to requests for comment on Monday.
Jacinthe Beaulieu, a spokeswoman for Telus, declined to comment Monday, citing the continuing legal proceedings.
Mr. Golberg’s role, which is described as assisting with the development of “strategy for Rogers Media’s portfolio of assets,” comes as the division faces a tough financial outlook and is looking to cut costs. The Globe reported in August that Rogers is seeking a buyer for eight of its digital and print magazine titles, which followed a round of 75 job cuts at the publishing business in June.