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Rogers CEO Laurence Steps Down

Canadian telecom company Rogers Communications said its CEO Guy Laurence will step down immediately, replaced eventually by Telus Communications chief Joseph Natale.

The move came as a surprise, especially since Rogers recently reported strong financial results. Laurence was brought in about three years ago from Vodafone U.K. to fix Rogers’ customer service issues. On a conference call announcing third quarter results, Rogers chairman Alan Horn, who will serve as interim CEO for the next few months, said the change was made because Natale, a well-respected Canadian telecom executive, became available.

“Timing is never perfect on these things,” Horn said on the call.

Consolidated revenue rose 3% in the third quarter, driven by strong increases in wireless (6%) and media (13%) unit sales. Cable revenue was down 1% in the period, but high-speed Internet sales rose 11%. The media unit consists mainly of Rogers’ sports-related assets, including Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, currently competing against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series. Cleveland leads the series 2 games to 0.     

Rogers announced earlier its decision to shut down its Shomi subscription video on demand service joint venture with Shaw Communications on Nov. 30.   

Natale had been CEO of Telus for about 18 months but according to Canadian press reports, didn’t want to move his family to company headquarters in Vancouver. He signed a two-year non-compete deal with Telus, so Rogers has to wait for that pact to expire before it can hire him.

Investors seemed to take it in stride. Rogers stock closed at $41.29 per share on Monday, down 4 cents (0.1%) each.

"We have appreciated Guy's leadership over the last three years," said Rogers Communications deputy chairman Edward Rogers in a statement. "He has moved the company forward re-establishing growth, introducing innovative programs like Roam Like Home, while getting the company ready for its next phase of growth. On behalf of the Rogers family and the Board, I'd like to thank Guy for his competitive spirit and many contributions."

"Following the transition, the board will look to Joe to take the company forward and continue the momentum we've established in the past couple of years," Horn said in a statement. "Joe is a proven executive who has deep experience delivering strong financial results in a highly competitive and complex industry. His focus on the customer experience and demonstrated expertise delivering operational success makes him well suited to lead Rogers through the challenges and opportunities ahead."

"During the transition, it's business as usual," said Horn. "We have a strong management team that will continue to execute the plan and build on the momentum we have established as we head into the fourth quarter."