They come from very different corners of Canadian business but are united in one goal: to change forever the $17.5-billion domestic wireless service industry. Oh, and to screw Bell, Telus and Rogers in the process. This year's unprecedented choice of a three-headed CEO of the Year acknowledges the vast changes that have swept through this country's telecommunications landscape in the past year, as new wireless companies seized government licences and rushed to do battle in an increasingly crowded, fast-changing marketplace. The three are Pierre Karl Péladeau of Quebecor Inc., Anthony Lacavera of Globalive Communications Corp., and Jim Shaw of Shaw Communications Inc.
The trio have some things in common. They all had to build wireless networks, they're all new at this, and they all want to steal customers from the Big Three. But they also differ immensely.
Péladeau is perhaps the most fearsome. He has built a media and telecom empire that thoroughly dominates Quebec. He owns virtually every broadcaster, newspaper and magazine within sight of his offices in Montreal. And although he has left a disastrous megamerger of his legacy printing business in his wake, and is grinding unions into the dust, he stands out as Canada's poster boy for convergence.
Then there's Lacavera. The brash young entrepreneur took a scrappy little telecom company, secured financing from an Egyptian billionaire, and promptly charged the wireless giants head-on. He united Canadians in an innovative social-media campaign that funnelled dissatisfaction with his rivals directly into his own coffers. His Wind Mobile is far from profitable and has had some stumbles, but he's still standing. And that says quite a lot about his talent for managing.
Lastly, there's Jim Shaw, who has expanded his family's regional company into one of the largest cable players in the country. In 2010, he topped off years of strategic acquisitions and cautious growth with the blockbuster purchase of CanWest Global. In doing so, Shaw, who stepped down in November, has set up his company perfectly for its wireless launch in 2011.
For consumers in Canada, this is all great news. The past year has seen wireless voice prices fall through the floor. Smart phone data plans are also cheaper than ever. And as cable companies like Shaw and Quebecor jump into wireless, traditional phone companies are fighting back by pushing further into TV, bringing better prices and value to consumers. Bell, Telus and Rogers are also responding with newer brands, better devices, more investment and improved service-so even if you never sign a contract with any of these CEOs of the Year, you'll have benefited from their acumen.
PROOF OF THE PREMISE Québécois media baron Pierre Karl Péladeau was trudging door to door in Montreal on a fall evening in 2002 when he proved that convergence actually worked. Péladeau was tagging along with a salesperson, knocking on doors in a futile attempt to sell cable subscriptions for his newly acquired company, Vidéotron.
It wasn't going very well. But at one residence, he saw an opening. The matriarch of the household was rejecting Péladeau's pitch, but praising his famous common-law partner-the glamorous talk-show host and one-woman broadcasting powerhouse Julie Snyder. So Péladeau phoned her. "He said, 'Allo, chérie, I won't come home for dinner tonight,'" Snyder recalls. "'The lady here said that if you talk to her, she'll buy cable.' He passed me to her and I said, 'Hello.' And she says, 'Is it the real one, is it the real Julie Snyder?' I said 'Yes.' And she says, 'I guess we don't have any choice.'"
No one else did, either. That phone call to his partner was the first time Péladeau's connections to the world of media and broadcasting would help him cash in on the cable business. But it would not be the last-literally, since he pulled the call-Julie-to-impress-people stunt two more times. But things also clicked in a much broader sense, as he spun his French-language broadcasting, publishing and printing powerhouses together with Vidéotron to create an unstoppable convergence machine that now dominates la belle province and has media and telecom ambitions beyond its borders. Péladeau had to stare down unions and fire a bunch of managers, but he eventually turned Vidéotron from a dilapidated cable company into a TV and Internet powerhouse. He then started to vacuum home phone customers away from Bell Canada. His success in Quebec has Bell, Rogers and Telus shivering about what he went and did next: launch a wireless network geared entirely toward smart phones plugged into Quebecor's irresistible content factory.
In 2008, after a period of furious lobbying, the federal government auctioned off wireless spectrum licences and set some aside for fresh blood. Thus the Canadian airwaves became crammed with new wireless competitors, of which Quebecor drew industry analysts' most bullish predictions. The past year alone has seen telecom CEOs like Bell's George Cope and Jim Shaw of Shaw Communications race to replicate Quebecor's structure with multibillion-dollar media acquisitions.
Pretty soon, Péladeau will discover whether he's a heartless operator who's reassembled legacy clunkers into slick machines, a telecom wizard who has excelled in cable and masterminded an epochal wireless launch, or just a lucky guy who inherited a media empire. (His father, Pierre Péladeau, was actually a converger himself, having bought printing companies to save money at his newspapers.) Any way you slice it, Péladeau has taken a failed idea, made it his own, and has only just started to spread it across the world of wireless, the most lucrative growth area in telecommunications.
At its heart, Quebecor is based on a simple premise: Quebeckers love home-grown French-language content and will pay to have it delivered to them. "Look," Péladeau says, wheeling his chair toward me at Quebecor's HQ in Montreal, with a Nexus One smart phone in his hand. "That's live TV!" The phone, connected to Vidéotron's new network, is playing LCN, a French-language news network that his broadcaster TVA Group Inc. owns. It is roughly a month since Maclean's magazine-owned by rival Rogers Communications-featured Quebec City's beloved Bonhomme mascot holding a suitcase stuffed full of cash on its cover. "The most corrupt province in Canada, you got it displayed here," Péladeau laughs, echoing the magazine's controversial headline, as we watch a live broadcast of the Bastarache Commission investigating influence-peddling in the Quebec Liberal Party.
As interesting as this is, it's not really what most people tune in to on Vidéotron's network, nor where Quebecor focuses its convergence efforts. Instead, the company cultivates populist hits-almost all of them reality TV shows, like Star Académie (hosted by Snyder, leveraged by Webcasts and hype in Quebecor's newspapers and magazines), Le Banquier (a version of Deal or No Deal, with mobile applications and a board game), and the latest La Série Montréal-Québec, in which amateur hockey players face off (and have their lives tracked off-ice). Quebeckers eat this stuff up, since nobody else is making it. At their apex, some of Quebecor's shows have transfixed roughly half the province.
Pierre Dion, TVA Group's CEO, says Ontarians and Albertans would eat up home-grown programming too if only English-language networks hadn't been lulled into a stupor by the ease with which they can buy American programming. Perhaps. In Quebec, it's a pretty simple proposition: Give francophones what they want, when they want, where they want. Bringing it about, in a sprawling conglomerate with several divisional CEOs, was not quite as simple. "PK really had to force it," Dion says. "And we had to let go of quite a lot of people who didn't believe."
Bringing it about on wireless-one of the most regulated industries in the country-was no simple task either. A less-driven CEO might have faltered. The Big Three wireless companies straddle the landscape and have a habit both of gobbling up challengers and outbidding potential rivals when they try to buy wireless spectrum licences from Ottawa. Péladeau had to convince the government, the media and the public that wireless spectrum should be set aside for new competitors, and that Canadians would continue to be fleeced blind if the government didn't.
Without the perfect auction conditions in place, Quebecor couldn't possibly win the spectrum it needed to go national, which was the original plan, or to fortify and hunker down in Quebec, which was Plan B. At first, it wasn't going well at all. Péladeau was surrounded by technical consultants and feared the whole process was being bogged down, so he summoned his long-time ally (and veteran Brian Mulroney aide) Luc Lavoie into his office. "He looked me in the eye and he said, 'This is the future of the entire company. Take charge of it. And win,'" Lavoie says.
Lavoie teamed up with other new entrants, funded the creation of research, collected various top-shelf consultants and worked hard to exploit the political climate of a minority government with a populist streak-hence sensitive to consumer demands. Bell was lobbying hard, but the incumbents picked an obscure point on which to stand firm: that spectrum "set-asides" for newbies were a subsidy and unfair. To some, it sounded arrogant, like wireless ought to remain an exclusive club. The late Ted Rogers even called potential new entrants "scallywags."
More than one person sensed victory in the air for Péladeau when he gave a well-timed speech on April 17, 2007, at the Canadian Club in Ottawa. The topic: Canada's wireless oligopoly and the "stranglehold" the incumbents had on the industry. "I sat at that speech," says a person from the camp of the Big Three, and "while everyone else was getting pissed off because it was full of so much misinformation, I just thought, 'Ohhhhh, fuck.'"
Péladeau is an intense man, a tightly wound and contradictory character. He has a furious focus, and bikes the 127 kilometres from his Montreal office to the cottage, but oddly for a man with a well-known attention to detail, he occasionally forgets to get his hair cut, and will ask Snyder to do it for him with scissors from the kitchen. He is organized enough to put in laps in the pool and read the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal before work, but will also walk into meetings late in his cycling gear. He's high-minded enough to quote Nietzsche and Hegel to his managers, but calls himself "Mr. Snyder" to his wife's showbiz guests-such as Lady Gaga-when he's hanging around her studio eating lunch with the technicians. Péladeau is making a fortune on cheesy broadcasting-and is trying to launch a Fox News-like right-wing TV channel to boot-but the onetime philosophy student keeps marked-up copies of the works of Karl Marx, the man who put the K in Carl. "He's the only businessman who can talk about [philosopher]Gilles Deleuze and also sing [Lady Gaga's]Poker Face," Snyder says.
To many people, however, he's a tyrant who jokes about his underlings not having sufficient gusto for layoffs. "Am I a guy who is easy to work with?" Péladeau asks, shrugging. "Yes, if you deliver. No, if you do not." Like the Shaws, the Braggs of Bragg Communications in Halifax, and the Rogers (to an extent), Péladeau inherited his empire. Unlike the other dynasties, however, the empire over which Péladeau now presides looks dramatically different than the compendium of sunset industries his father left him when he died in 1997. The low point of his career, he says, came when he took the company's sprawling printing division and orchestrated a mega-merger to create the world's largest printing company. But he didn't find synergies fast enough, didn't cut deep enough. The result was like gluing two dinosaurs together. The printing arm declared bankruptcy in 2008, and the bulk of Quebecor's printing assets were sold off to an American firm this year. The outcome saddened Péladeau. "There's no room for a declining business without consolidation," he says. "We were expecting the industry to consolidate. That didn't work out."
Success is now essentially measured by how far away from printing Péladeau can diversify, with the purchase of Vidéotron-and the installation of Robert Dépatie as its CEO-unquestionably being the best thing he has done for the company. Péladeau's latest fixation has been to do to the media business what he did to Vidéotron: Yank it from mediocrity and incorporate it into his glorious machine. The problem is, it's not really working. His attempts to get special distribution status for his new Sun TV News channel flopped with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and attracted undue controversy. His intense desire to bring the Nordiques NHL franchise back to Quebec (so he can make money from it) drew a bizarre amount of media attention concerning his political connections and motives. And his attempts to slash and reassemble Le Journal de Montréal, his father's flagship, have led to a bitter and protracted lockout.
Convergence, of course, has long angered journalists: The former editor-in-chief of Le Journal, writing in the Rogers-owned L'actualité in November, said convergence led to journalists being pressured into writing about Quebecor's programming. Union secretary Pascal Filotto, who is an editor in the Journal's sports section, says Péladeau's convergence dreams mean his local would shrink from 250 members to about 50, with the number of reporters in the newsroom collapsing from 66 to 17. "There is a master plan to maximize the size of the empire they've constructed, but in the end that means less reporters on the ground," Filotto says. "People have finally found out what the end game was, and realized, 'You know what, maybe this place [Quebec]is too small to have that big a player.'"
Quebecor's strength lies not in its parts-such as dismantled newspapers-but in churning the mélange into a magnificent whole. Bell Mobility president Wade Oosterman sniffs that Quebecor isn't that big-rather it's a "regional" player without the scale required to cause real damage to Bell. Scale is obviously a sore point for Péladeau, since it accounts for the fiasco in printing. "Bell has had scale for more than 100 years," Péladeau spits. "Scale is scale, so what? Just because you have scale doesn't mean you'll be successful." Sweepingly, he adds: "Everything that Bell touched was a failure." In any case, Oosterman knows quite well-especially given that Bell's headquarters are also in Montreal-that the Quebecor threat stems not from scale but from its domination of Quebec and the tight-knit integration of different, occasionally antagonistic divisions. "I think that he's got a very potent machine, and is a very potent threat to the roughly two-fifths of Bell's revenue that Quebec represents," says Iain Grant, a consultant with the SeaBoard Group.
This past year, after Shaw bought CanWest Global, Bell threw down $1.3 billion to buy CTV Inc. "They're just copycats. It's obvious," says Dépatie, Vidéotron's CEO. "They know we're a threat. They know we're a serious competitor. They know we understand the Quebec market."
Knowing where its strength lies, the company made sure its new smart phones are geared to video-watching, that they're way cheaper for existing Vidéotron subscribers as opposed to those simply seeking a cheap plan, and that it didn't charge by the amount of megabytes downloaded (which can be confusing to consumers) but by how much video one watches. "He's brought content to the fore, and made it easier to access content by hourly rates," says Dvai Ghose, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. "They've been quite smart."
And this has got not just Bell but also Rogers and Telus on edge. As Rogers registered its first poor quarter in ages in late October, its executives began talking openly of a "new competitive reality," and singled out Quebecor's momentum as a new and unwelcome threat. After all, when Quebecor came into the home phone market, it ended up stealing more than one million customers from Bell. Wireless will be a tougher slog, but history has shown that Péladeau's sometimes painfully lean convergence machine isn't just an influential one. It's also a hard one to stop.
THE UPSTART Anthony Lacavera is the undisputed rebel prince of Canadian wireless: His Wind Mobile is the most serious threat to Bell, Telus and Rogers from the new cohort of wireless-only players, which also includes Mobilicity and Public Mobile. And he relishes the role, which is of a piece with a history of creative troublemaking going back to college days.
Lacavera made his first foray into communications by stringing blue Ethernet cable through the halls of his University of Toronto dormitory. The computer engineering student was outfitting his classmates at St. Michael's College for one simple reason: He wanted to totally dominate them in a Star Wars game called TIE Fighter. He did, though he jokes that he almost flunked out of school in the process. Toward the end, people were calling him the Emperor (or Emp, for short).
Lacavera was a prankster, a schemer. He made a point of parking his wood-panelled 1979 Jeep Wagoneer-so rusted that passengers would get wet going over puddles-in a spot that, technically speaking, was reserved for the college dean. From burying a rival dorm's only door with iced-over snow to organizing snowball fights involving 400 people, everything Lacavera did tended toward large-scale subversion of established authority. "There's a consistent thread there," says Lacavera, the chairman of Globalive Communications. "It's the bigger schemes that I find interesting."
After he graduated from U of T in 1997, Lacavera started a small telecom company and began creating software to handle billing systems for things like 411 calls. Today he has achieved his dream of going big. With Wind Mobile up and running, Lacavera boasted a vast national architecture of cell towers, rooftop cellular antennas and fibre optic cables worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The authority figures he was tweaking were now giant publicly traded companies that were mobilizing to crush him. And the financing wasn't hundreds of dollars of savings he'd once invested with college pals, but hundreds of millions of dollars from an Egyptian billionaire.
That billionaire, Naguib Sawiris, spent $442 million on wireless spectrum, and Industry Canada granted Lacavera an operating licence. The Big Three lobbied against him, calling him a stooge for a foreign telecom mogul who operates in North Korea, of all places. The CRTC then organized a public hearing (in which Bell offered to buy Lacavera's spectrum at 50 cents on the dollar). In a dramatic finale in October, 2009, the regulator ruled Lacavera's company had run afoul of foreign ownership restrictions and thus could not launch. But when Lacavera called Sawiris to tell him the bad news, the mogul was not deterred. He simply replied, "Let's build faster." Soon enough, likely embarrassed by the high-profile disagreements between Industry Canada and the CRTC, Industry Minister Tony Clement reversed the regulator's ruling on Dec. 11, 2009.
Five days later, on a chilly morning on Toronto's waterfront, Lacavera yanked the cover off a statue of an "average dude," meant to symbolize his company's consumer-focused approach. He crowed that the Big Three "had set the bar low," and opened his company for business. The 36-year-old had gone up against the industry titans and won.
Throughout the gruelling two-year process, Lacavera ignited the fervour of a nation fed up with high wireless prices, turned himself into a white knight for consumer discontent, and then mobilized it all to fuel his company's growth. The problem, of course, was that the Big Three, having failed to stop Lacavera by lobbying against him, were now trying to destroy him in the marketplace. The glee at Wind was short-lived. The real work had only just begun.
It wasn't long after Wind's launch that the first reports of a weak network started trickling in. Bay Street telecom analysts, who buy phones and test them out first-hand, confirmed the rumours. Then an influential telecom consultancy released a damning report: Wind's network sucked, big time. It dropped calls, had wonky wireless data, and had a habit of imposing roaming charges when users made calls inside the network zone. This sort of thing is apt to happen with a new network, but Globalive's
rivals made a point of spreading the word. Robert Dépatie, CEO of Vidéotron, declared that Wind had taught him a lesson: "Make sure your network is well built." Rogers came out with a Chatr discount brand, and Bell rejigged its Solo brand, both expressly matching Wind's markets and pricing. Their slogans boasted, respectively, "Fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers" and "Unlimited talk without all the dropped calls."
Lacavera maintained his composure, consistently cast the battle in David-and-Goliath terms, and-perhaps most importantly-maintained a sense of humour. A low point came when Jim Shaw and Peter Bissonnette, the CEO and president of Shaw Communications, respectively, joked on an earnings call about a "camel"-which was perceived to refer to Naguib Sawiris. Lacavera turned the dig to his advantage, calling it a "racial slur." Bissonnette offered an apology. Months later, Lacavera still takes
offence. "All the stuff about trying to kill us, that's fun," he says. "The camel comment"-he pauses-"made me angry."
His boyish charm aside, Lacavera is a classic example of the old-school entrepreneur. He built his business from the ground up, still has university friends working with him, and talks up international telecom deals in jeans. And, as in college, he never stops scheming. Before striking the deal with Sawiris, he approached more than 40 possible investors: Vodafone, Verizon, seemingly every pension fund and major bank in Canada, a whack of institutional investors. He was rejected by all of them, but continued forth cheerily.
Hence the reliance on the Sawiris family-owned behemoth, Orascom Telecom, as Lacavera expands his network across the country. "He's the biggest entrepreneur in the business today," says Greg MacDonald, an analyst with National Bank. "He actually got this thing off the ground."
Recently, however, Sawiris orchestrated a megamerger to create the fifth-largest wireless company in the world, and allowed Orascom to be swallowed by VimpelCom, a massive pan-Eurasian company. On a mid-October morning in Toronto, Lacavera arrives at his office from a meeting with "some guys" from VimpelCom, which has links to an original Russian oligarch. The rumours are already swirling about how VimpelCom will have less interest than Sawiris in the Canadian market, and leave Lacavera writhing in the glare of the incumbents' scorn.
But Lacavera is in a jolly mood, talking up the operational heft VimpelCom will throw his way. He goes on to blue-sky about creating another cellular brand that will make Wind's existing $35-a-month plan look usurious by comparison. Then there's the Internet protocol TV product he wants to launch, so he doesn't get frozen out of an industry that's increasingly about bundling wireless, home phone, TV and Internet services together. He says he's in it for the long term, that he won't sell out, that he'll buy up the other new wireless companies, Mobilicity and Public Mobile. This man just doesn't stop: Everything is an opportunity to expand, to push harder, to promote himself and the company. One friend joked by e-mail that if Lacavera gets any more attention, his college pals will be forced to go to the press with the toga photos. If he's worried that one day he'll be obliterated because of all the toes he's stomping on, the grin hides it pretty well.
A while later, strolling along Wellington Street in downtown Toronto, Lacavera says he spends some mornings personally answering e-mailed complaints from Wind Mobile users. So when his colleagues first see him in the morning, he's already been beaten up. Then, suddenly, he's laughing, recalling how he wanted to use some of the more unprintable comments in a new marketing campaign. His marketing department was not pleased, which only amuses him more.
Lacavera turns north and heads toward the Art Gallery of Ontario, where he's attending a lunch. Most executives would hail a cab, but Lacavera would rather stroll through the sunshine. Although things have never been tougher for Lacavera-who not that long ago flew completely below the radar-he's savouring the challenge, taking it all in. And he's still buoyant. On paper, he has good reason to be. Globalive's sales in 1998 were just $3,271. This year, they topped $200 million.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information that occurred after the magazine's print edition went to press.
THE WEST'S NEW WAVE
Jim Shaw's cable company is a lot like his boat. It's huge, powerful and anchored firmly where he wants it to be. In the company's case, that means Calgary: the western epicentre from which Shaw Communications has expanded into a highly profitable telecom empire. In the boat's case, that happens to be Costa Rica, where Shaw dropped anchor after sailing the 80-foot vessel from Halifax, where he bought it in 2009. Both the company and the boat may have been around before he took control of them, but Shaw-who announced he was stepping down as CEO in October-has put his unmistakable stamp on both of them.
The company was built up by his genial, entrepreneurial father, JR Shaw, whom Jim joined in the executive suite after 16 years of digging ditches, "sweating over people's TVs," as he puts it, and working as a cable manager in places like Vancouver Island. He rose through the ranks, was handed power, and then went to work leaving his mark on the company. The younger Shaw spun off the company's broadcasting assets and masterminded acquisitions that grew it into one of the biggest cable companies in the country. He also expanded into Internet service, a business that now has 1.8 million customers, and digital home phone service, which has 1.1 million customers. Then he set in motion the events that now have technicians building cell towers in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, as Shaw gets set to launch a wireless network in 2011. Oh, and he bought CanWest Global for $2 billion, a prized broadcasting asset that the late Ted Rogers himself was trying to acquire as a last hurrah.
The boat, on the other hand, Shaw simply had repainted. He revved the full might of the twin 1,700-horsepower engines and brought the vessel into sunnier climes. Then he thought about renaming it-there was no way it was going to stay Fox Harb'r Too, as it had been deemed by the seller, Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce. "I call the engines the chicklets. I was thinking about calling the boat Chicklets. But that's way too cutesy. I'm way edgier than that. So I called it Wench," Shaw says. "For a 52-ton boat, she cooks along pretty good."
That Shaw itself has similar momentum has the wireless industry quaking, and shifting to adjust. Of all the new companies launching wireless networks in 2010 and 2011, it is the cable companies that present the biggest threat to the establishment. Smaller players, such as Wind Mobile, can offer cheap service and pick up all the discontented and budget-conscious consumers they want. But it's heavyweights such as Shaw, which sprawls across several provinces, that will be doing the majority of the damage to big wireless providers like Bell, Telus and Rogers, and stealing the really high-value customers-perhaps for good.
Quebecor has already launched, sparking a flurry of reactions in Quebec from the incumbents. Now all eyes are on Shaw. For its part, Rogers lacks the ability to offer much more than wireless cellphone service across Shaw's territory, whereas the Shaws will serve up cable TV, Internet, home phone service and wireless. To deepen Rogers' presence, CEO Nadir Mohamed has struck content deals with the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, as well as buying the rights to change Vancouver's GM Place to the Rogers Arena. But Shaw doesn't seem to think that will stem the bloodletting from Rogers' pool of 8.9 million wireless customers. "We're not the easiest guys to beat," he says.
"It's going to be really hard on Rogers."
And then there's Telus, the Vancouver-based wireless giant that has been pushing into the television business with an Internet protocol TV product. It's taken Telus a while, but it is finally picking up momentum and has gained more than 266,000 TV customers in Shaw's territory. Telus, though, has a problem. Rogers and Quebecor have long had broadcasting properties. Now that Shaw has bought CanWest, and BCE Inc. owns CTV Inc., Telus is the only major telecom company without a significant shop of home-grown content to lure customers. Jim Shaw, who expects Bell and Telus to merge, says he'll happily sell his content to Telus. But he thinks its TV presence is simply insignificant when weighed against Shaw's millions-strong base. "Shaw has a huge presence in their marketplace," says Iain Grant, an analyst with the SeaBoard Group telecom consultancy.
"The future may not be quite so friendly for Telus."
Leaving as CEO at 53, Jim Shaw can say he steered the company into new lines of business and then set it up to enter the biggest growth area in the telecom racket: wireless. The purchase of CanWest, which will give people something to watch on their smart phones, was a sort of grand finale. The day it was approved by regulators, he also announced he would resign on Jan. 13, 2011. The date was moved up to mid-November after Shaw harshly criticized investors at a luncheon. Like his father before him, he's handing the reins to a fresher Shaw-in this case, his younger brother Brad, who has headed the cable business. But this is no time to sail off into the sunset. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm still there. So's my dad," says Shaw, who remains vice-chair. "I always say to my brother that you still work for me, so just be careful."
It's unlikely that anyone within the Shaw organization is especially worried. It appears to be pretty clear prairie skies ahead. The company is the undisputed cable king in Western Canada, has eaten Telus's lunch in the home phone and Internet markets, and appears set to do something similar in the wireless game. And Shaw's purchase of Hamilton's Mountain Cable in 2009, which violated the gentleman's agreement between the Rogers and the Shaws to stay out of each other's turf, shows there's still room to expand-or swap properties with other cable owners eager for deals, like the Bragg family in Halifax. "You should put in there that the environment's changing, that consolidation is inevitable," Shaw says helpfully. Even if integrating what he calls a "threadbare" CanWest into Shaw's family-oriented company presents some challenges, it's still a new source of revenue and a new opportunity to lather video and advertising across more platforms-from cable to Web to wireless.
"With Global, it's a whole new era. And does Jim want to start all over again at 53?" asks Shaw's father, JR. "We're just changing seats a little bit." Of course, all cable companies face a threat from a new generation of video-streaming sites such as Netflix, which recently came to Canada. But Jim Shaw made sure the family business is ready: He has bulked up the company's Internet network, continued to jack up prices and locked content-providers like CanWest in-house, all while spinning off dividends that have made Shaw Communications a favourite of Bay Street. "Nobody can ride on a network for free," Shaw says. "The customer will pay for the network. Whether it's our service or Netflix, they will have to pay."