Rogers CEO departs unexpectedly; profit hit by streaming venture

Mon Oct 17, 2016 1:25pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Rogers Communications Inc Chief Executive Guy Laurence is stepping down effective immediately, the Canadian telecom company said on Monday, an unexpected departure that came as it reported a sharp fall in quarterly profit.

Laurence, a former Vodafone UK executive brought in a little less than three years ago, will eventually be replaced by former Telus Corp chief Joe Natale.

Alan Horn will serve as interim CEO, the company said. It did not give a specific date when Natale will join the company. Telus said last year Natale would have an 18-month non-compete agreement from the end of 2015.

"The timing is never perfect with these things," Horn said on a conference call, focusing on the opportunity to secure Natale's services when asked to explain the CEO transition.

Rogers shares, which gained roughly 15 percent over Laurence's tenure, rose 1.8 percent to C$55.30.

Laurence was widely viewed as a turnaround expert when he was brought in by the company, controlled by Toronto's Rogers family.

The chief executive shied away from discounts to woo subscribers, instead focusing on improved product offerings and better customer service. The rate at which its wireless customers leave has dropped for the last four quarters.

"It's a strange situation," said Ryan Bushell, a portfolio manager with Leon Frazer and Associates, which has around 2.5 percent of its C$1 billion ($752 million) portfolio invested in Rogers.   Continued...

A sign is pictured on top of the Rogers Communications Inc. building on the day of their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, April 21, 2015.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo