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Rogers CEO Joe Natale is seen in this file photo.

Christopher Katsarov

In another year of top-level executive turnover, Rogers Communications Inc. paid its two CEOs almost $18-million combined in 2017.

Over the past five years, as it has shuffled through three chief executive officers and one interim CEO, the Toronto-based cable and wireless company has paid an annual average of $17.4-million in total compensation to those in the top job.

(Compensation is not paid fully in cash – it includes salary, share- and option-based awards, annual bonuses, pension contributions and benefits such as transportation, travel costs and life- and health-insurance coverage.)

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The family-controlled company's base salaries and bonus structure are similar to those at its main rivals Telus Corp. and BCE Inc., whose CEOs received $12.9-million and $10.8-million, respectively, in 2016 (the most recent year for which information for those companies is available).

But owing to a combination of retirement, recruitment and severance payments for its incoming and outgoing CEOs, Rogers spent a total of $87.1-million on compensation for its top executive for the years 2013 to 2017.

A new financial filing shows current chief executive officer Joe Natale, who started in late April last year, received $13.3-million in 2017 for just more than eight months with the company. That amount includes options and restricted shares worth $8-million, granted as "sign-on awards."

The filing does not disclose any information on the terms of a deal Rogers struck with Telus to allow Mr. Natale to start earlier than expected last year (Mr. Natale was CEO of Telus from May, 2014, to August, 2015, and was still under the terms of a non-compete provision when Rogers hired him).

Rogers declined to comment on that point on Tuesday. Regarding executive pay in general, spokeswoman Michelle Kelly said, "Our executive compensation is in line with industry standards."

Telus itself spent heavily on CEO compensation in 2015, when Mr. Natale departed and previous CEO Darren Entwistle returned to his long-held job. The Vancouver-based telecom paid the pair a combined $24.1-million that year.

The Rogers filing also discloses that Alan Horn, who was interim CEO for six months, received total compensation in 2017 of $5.1-million, about $4.5-million of which was a share-based award for taking on the temporary job. (According to Rogers, the remainder of Mr. Horn's total compensation last year was for his role as then-chairman of the board, and that amount is not included in calculations of total CEO compensation in this story.) Between Mr. Horn and Mr. Natale, Rogers paid $17.8-million in CEO compensation last year.

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Mr. Horn, who is Rogers's former chief financial officer, a long-time board member and a close adviser to the Rogers family, stepped in when the board fired former CEO Guy Laurence in October, 2016.

Mr. Laurence was with the company for less than three years after taking over from Nadir Mohamed, the company's second-ever CEO who assumed the role following the 2008 death of founder Ted Rogers.

Rogers paid Mr. Laurence a total of $42.6-million for his time with the company and over the four years from 2013 to 2016 – the year that Mr. Mohamed retired to the year Mr. Laurence exited – it spent a combined $69.3-million on CEO compensation.

There has also been turnover of other top executives at Rogers in recent years as many of the managers recruited by Mr. Laurence departed.

Last year, Rogers's chief customer officer Deepak Khandelwal left at the end of July. The company paid him $2.8-million in compensation for the year and he went on to a top position with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as group head of client connectivity and innovation. The bank paid him $12.3-million last year, including $9.9-million to make up for deferred compensation from Rogers.

Dirk Woessner, who led Rogers's crucial consumer business unit, was wooed away from the company to become CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG's German operation earlier this year. He left Rogers at the end of November and received $5.5-million in compensation for 2017. The company filing says that amount included a "special one-time bonus" as well as payment of two-thirds of the restricted stock options he was granted when he joined Rogers in 2015.

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Mr. Natale has eliminated the role of chief customer officer, but the company has yet to find a permanent replacement for Mr. Woessner. Earlier this year, Rogers hired a new chief technology officer, Jorge Fernandes, who the company recruited from Vodafone UK Ltd.

Editor’s note: Certain numbers in this article have been updated slightly to reflect that Mr. Horn was paid $4.5-million in CEO compensation and the entire remainder of his $5.1-million compensation in 2017 was solely attributable to his role as a company director.
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