The Man Who Would Be King: inside the ruthless battle for control of the $34-billion Rogers empire

The Man Who Would Be King: inside the ruthless battle for control of the $34-billion Rogers empire

Edward Rogers expected to run the family empire after the death of his father, Ted. But the board squeezed him out

The Man Who Would Be King Suzanne and Edward Rogers in their Forest Hill house. (Image: Getty Images)
 
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n a grey December day in 2008, a thousand people gathered at St. James Cathedral on Church Street to remember Ted Rogers, the legendary founder of Rogers Communications. The business icon had died of congestive heart failure at his Forest Hill home a week earlier, after months of declining health. Rogers’ funeral was a rare event in the city—a ­coming-together of high society, business titans and politicians that was the lay equivalent of a state funeral. Stephen Harper shook hands with his on-again, off-again friend Brian Mulroney, former premiers David Peterson and Mike Harris were in attendance, along with then-mayor David Miller, and members of such big-business clans as the Westons, Jackmans, Shaws and Péladeaus walked solemnly side by side in and out of the church.

As Ted’s widow, Loretta, looked on from the front row, Alan Horn, an accountant who had served as Rogers’ financial lieutenant for more than 15 years before being named chair of the Rogers board, delivered the main eulogy. He referred to his former boss as “young at heart but wise in years,” someone who’d “lived large and dreamt large.” Two of Ted’s daughters, Melinda and Martha, spoke about their father being “their rock,” a devoted family man who always made a point of being home for dinner. And then Edward Jr., Ted and Loretta’s only son, took to the podium. To many in the church, Edward was something of an unknown who’d kept a low profile while working his way up through the ranks of the company. But on that day he was the perceived heir apparent, stepping out from behind his father’s long shadow.

Few people plan their deaths as carefully as Ted Rogers. He had to. His life had been punctuated by multiple illnesses, from the celiac disease and poor eyesight he suffered as a child (he would later be declared legally blind), to a weak heart, aneurysms and a blocked carotid artery. Ted’s father, Edward S. Rogers, had died as a result of an aneurysm at the age of 38, and Ted always feared he would suffer a similar fate. He frequently updated his life insurance policies and established trusts to protect his nearly $8-billion fortune. When it came to the future of his company—which was, in essence, his first child—he left little to chance, consulting with his closest friends, especially John A. Tory, the father of mayoral candidate and Rogers board member John H. Tory.

The result of those consultations was the Rogers Control Trust, which would be run by Loretta, Edward, Melinda, Martha and a third daughter, Lisa, plus a few old friends and trusted advisors (including Horn and Tory, the former Scotiabank CEO Peter Godsoe, and Rogers’ board members Phil Lind and Thomas Hull). Edward was named chair of the trust, Melinda vice-chair. There are all sorts of checks and balances in place (an arrangement Ted compared to the American system of government) to guard against hasty or unilateral actions by any one shareholder. The Trust controls 91 per cent of the Rogers Class A voting shares, making it essentially a family-run operation, in line with other communications behemoths with dual-class shares like ­Comcast (the Roberts family) and News Corp (the Murdochs).

While he was alive, Ted Rogers had always run the public company as though it were his own, and not just because he controlled most of the voting shares; he also retained a 28 per cent financial interest. But more than that, he was the entrepreneurial founder whose fingerprints were all over the organization. He was Rogers Communications. And, for better or worse, he’d instilled a similar sense of proprietorship in his son, along with a deep desire to live up to Ted’s exacting expectations. The question for everybody—including Ted, the Rogers board, company execs and Bay Street—was whether Edward was ready to replace his father as CEO.

So the gathering at St. James Cathedral was not just a funeral, but also a public passing of the generational torch. In his speech, Edward talked about his father the deal-maker, the man who relished the role of the scrappy underdog going up against his entrenched rivals—the David to Bell Canada’s Goliath. He outlined the empire his father had built, acquisition by acquisition. Toward the end of his speech, he reiterated one of Ted’s favourite sayings: “The best is yet to come.” But he followed it up with something that in hindsight was revealing. “With him gone, it is hard to think how this can now still be the case…. He didn’t work so hard and build so much for his passion and determination to die with him.” And with that, Edward Rogers III vowed to continue his father’s legacy.

The Man Who Would Be King Edward, Lisa, Melinda, Martha and Loretta Rogers at the unveiling of a statue of Ted at the Rogers Centre. (Image: GetStock)
 
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t’s impossible to live in Toronto without encountering the Rogers name—whether it’s through your cellphone contract, your cable subscription, your Internet provider or the company’s various media holdings. Rogers owns 24 TV stations (among them City, OMNI and Sportsnet), some 50 radio stations (680 News and CHFI), and 50-odd magazines (Maclean’s, Flare, Chatelaine). The Rogers campus is spread out over three buildings at Bloor and Mount Pleasant: 333 and 350 Bloor Street East, and 1 Ted ­Rogers Way, the ornate peaked tower at the bottom of Mount Pleasant that is sometimes referred to as the Rog Mahal. Then there are the many Rogers stores, with their bright red awnings and bold white lettering; the Rogers ­Centre, home to the Rogers-owned Toronto Blue Jays and guarded by a 12-foot-high bronze statue of Ted; the Rogers Cup, the only Canadian stop on the international pro tennis tour; and finally Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Leafs, Raptors and TFC, of which Rogers owns 37.5 per cent. In short, you can’t swing an old corded telephone in this town without hitting something owned by the Rogers family.

Today, Rogers is a $34-billion company, with 28,000 employees, 9.5 million wireless subscribers, and two million TV and two million Internet subscribers. It’s hard to believe that many of the company’s assets were only acquired (and much of its substantial growth occurred) in the last 14 years. Ted Rogers’ decades of labour really only bore fruit (fruit of the ripe, billion-dollar variety) toward the end of his life. Unfortunately for the company, it was a short trip from communications giant to communications-giant-everybody-wants-to-kill. Being a near-­monopoly in the telcom sector (along with Bell and Telus) didn’t help, but ­Rogers somehow managed to surpass Ma Bell as the most loathed company in the country. The speed with which this happened made analysts’ heads spin. How could Rogers go from innovative underdog to bureaucratic nightmare in such a brief period of time?

Edward grew up acutely aware of his family’s stature. He was also aware of the roots of the company’s success, which were planted way back when his dad was a child. In 1925, Ted’s father had invented the batteryless radio—a radio that could plug into a home’s electrical system rather than running on bulky, toxic batteries—thereby ushering in a new era in communications. He began manufacturing radios himself and founded CFRB, the radio station whose call letters stood for ­Canada’s First ­Rogers Batteryless. After Ted’s father died, his mother, Velma, was persuaded by her brother-in-law to hastily sell many of her husband’s companies and patents.

Ted was just five years old at the time, a sickly yet precocious boy whose mother never let him forget his father’s accomplishments or the injustice inflicted on their small family. She encouraged her son to restore the family’s name and fortune. Although Ted grew up in Forest Hill and attended UCC, he was an outsider, a proud nonconformist who didn’t always do well in school but was a bright and unconventional thinker. He made a point of learning the same crystal and wire technology his father had used in his early experiments.

While in law school, he borrowed against what money was left of his father’s estate and bought his first radio station, CHFI-FM. This first purchase would always remain his most treasured asset, and it was the cornerstone on which he built his empire—one precarious piece at a time. He took on ­suffocating amounts of debt to fund his acquisitions—mortgaging and remortgaging his own properties, terrorizing bondholders and nearly bankrupting the company several times.

His wife, Loretta, was an early investor in the company. They had met while Ted was vacationing with a friend in Nassau in 1957. Loretta was the daughter of a long-serving British MP, Jack Robinson, who would later become a lord and a governor of Bermuda. She completed a fine arts degree at the University of Miami and is considered a talented painter. After Ted and Loretta married, Jack Robinson gave his daughter $450,000 to help fund his son-in-law’s business endeavours. She has been a director of Ted’s company ever since.

Loretta’s father bought them a house on Frybrook Road in Forest Hill—the elaborately landscaped property contains a tennis court and an indoor pool. They adopted their first child, Lisa, in 1967, then went on to have Edward, Melinda and ­Martha, each a year apart.

Ted’s deep-seated desire to build a company worthy of his father’s name was not lost on his own children, who grew up watching their father spend every waking hour—and many non-waking—at work (he kept sleeping quarters adjacent to his office on the 10th floor at 333 Bloor for overnights). He worked at home; he worked at the family’s sprawling compound on Lake Rosseau; he worked while holidaying at their house in Lyford Cay. Having a high-achieving, workaholic father invariably leads to competition among the children, who vie for his attention. In the Rogers family, Ted’s attention was most easily acquired in the environment in which he was happiest—work.

The Man Who Would Be King Edward and Melinda, who competed for their dad’s approval, in his office in 2000. (Image: CP Images)
 
Ted wrote in his autobiography, Relentless, that Melinda was the child who was most like him. She’s a striking brunette, tall and lanky like her dad, smart and extroverted. Edward, on the other hand, is shy and slightly awkward, the type of person whose eyes dart around uncomfortably, trying to figure out where to look. He’s either under- or overestimated, depending on whom you talk to in the company. That Edward and Melinda don’t like each other is an open secret. According to Rogers execs, their mutual animosity sometimes served to neutralize their power within the company, since neither wanted to see the other get ahead.

Melinda did her undergrad at Western and earned an MBA from Rotman. She founded Rogers Venture Partners, the tech investment arm headquartered in San Francisco, which is where she spends much of her time, along with her husband, a successful American Internet entrepreneur named Eric Hixon, and their three children.

Lisa, the eldest Rogers sister, has little involvement in the family business (although her ex-husband, David Purdy, is a VP at Rogers). Martha, the youngest, is a naturopathic doctor, philanthropist and Rogers board member. Within the company, Rogers family members, including a couple of cousins, are known as Relatives of Ted, or ROTs.

Edward attended UCC like his father, then Western for his BA. His university years revolved around the Sigma Chi fraternity, and he’s still friends with many of his frat brothers. It was also at Western that he met Suzanne Kolev, a political science student from Elliot Lake, Ontario.

After university, Edward spent three years working at ­Comcast in Philadelphia before returning to the family business (he’d also spent some time working for Rogers as a high school student). He started out in sales in 1994 and moved to ­paging (part of the wireless division) after a couple of years, then to cable, then strategy.

In 1997, he and Suzanne had a child together, Chloe. They parented separately for several years before having a second child, Edward IV, and eventually getting married at the Carlu in 2006. Suzanne wore a strapless gown by the Toronto designer Ines Di Santo with a 25-foot-long train. In 2007, they had their third child, Jack. The family lives in a modestly sized (by ­Forest Hill standards) neo-Georgian house a few blocks from Edward’s childhood home.

Edward and Suzanne’s relationship has been a source of strain within the family. The Rogerses are buttoned-down and prim, and Suzanne, a tough-as-nails woman with a ­penchant for couture gowns by designers like Zac Posen, ­Alexander McQueen and Chanel, is an attention-seeker. She appears frequently in newspaper society pages and in magazines, often promoting her favourite clothing designers. A few years ago, the fashion website Coveteur featured extensive photographs of her carefully curated wardrobe propped up against the neoclassical decor of her home—all soft pinks and creams with gold finishes.

Suzanne has been known to call up employees in Rogers’ media division looking for personal favours, leading to much awkwardness in the office. She would request magazine coverage of herself or TV coverage for one of her charity events, such as her annual fashion show (which she calls “Suzanne Rogers Presents”), starring designers like Oscar de la Renta and Marchesa. Rumours of her million-dollar-a-year clothing allowance circulated through Rogers headquarters and beyond. The optics were unfortunate at a time when the company was being slammed for gouging customers.

Edward doesn’t appear to take much interest in his wife’s fashion pursuits. He is more at home at a Jays game or playing tennis with his university chums—or, like his father before him, at work.

Ted always said that he hoped one of his children would eventually run the company, but he was also a realist. The second (or third) generation is seldom as enterprising as the first, and besides, Ted belonged to a special class of visionary entrepreneurs. In Canadian business history, there is only one Roy Thomson, one Paul Desmarais, one Jimmy Pattison. And there will only ever be one Ted Rogers.

The Man Who Would Be King Eric Hixon and his wife, Melinda Rogers, Oscar de la Renta, and Loretta, Suzanne and Edward Rogers at a fashion event organized by Suzanne. (Image: Getty Images)
 
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n 2000, Ted Rogers lured Nadir Mohamed, a senior VP at the then-fledgling Telus, to be Rogers’ new COO and the head of its wireless division. Mohamed is credited with ­changing the wireless business model from pre-paid to post-paid contracts, opening the door to massive profits. Rogers and Mohamed were an unlikely yet formidable team. Rogers was intuitive and gutsy, Mohamed conservative and disciplined. They didn’t always agree on things, but Rogers appreciated Mohamed’s attempts to keep him in check.

In 2004, Rogers bought Microcell, owner of the Fido brand as well as the country’s only other provider of GSM wireless network technology. It was a ridiculously savvy and lucrative move. GSM is standard in Europe and used throughout much of the world, and it allowed Rogers customers to roam while travelling outside the country. As the owner of the only GSM network in Canada, Rogers became the exclusive carrier of the iPhone when it launched in Canada in 2008.

To say that Rogers’ mobile division was successful would be like saying Babe Ruth was pretty good at swinging a bat. The company hit it out of the park—repeatedly. By luck or by design, it leapfrogged over its competitors, Bell and Telus, and became the darling of Bay Street. It could barely keep up with subscriptions, and the money was pouring in. Over the ­six-year period from 2004 to 2010, wireless revenues grew by 155 per cent, mushrooming to $6.9 billion in 2010. The success fundamentally transformed the company from a cable business with a wireless division to a wireless business with a cable division, and made Mohamed a golden child within Rogers and something of a favourite son for Ted.

This did not go over well with Edward, who had been made president and CEO of Rogers Cable in 2003, after John Tory left to pursue a career in politics. According to insiders, Edward would sit alongside his father and Mohamed at the conference room table and report on his division’s middling but stable results. He couldn’t help it if cable was no longer a growth industry and Mohamed lucked into an exploding market. After each successive record-breaking quarter, more of the attention and resources were thrown at wireless, not to Edward and his team of cable execs. The division between mobile and cable—and, more importantly, the underlying tensions between Nadir Mohamed and Edward Rogers—formed the backdrop to the succession battle that followed.

Despite Ted’s carefully planned ownership structure, he left it up to his board of directors to choose the next CEO. He let it be known, however, that he favoured Nadir Mohamed, and that his son would do well to serve as Mohamed’s de facto lieutenant until he might be ready to assume the leadership.

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fter Ted’s death, the board formed a CEO hiring committee. Despite his father’s stated preference, Edward put his name forward. The board deliberated for two months, then chose Mohamed. Bay Street welcomed the idea of a competent executive with a proven track record ­overseeing the difficult transition from an ­entrepreneurial owner to a hired CEO. And Rogers employees liked the idea of working under Mohamed, someone they already knew and respected.

It would take another month to negotiate the new CEO’s contract. This is where Mohamed’s cautious nature served him best. He knew that the new ownership structure could prove problematic, having just defeated Edward, the company’s leading shareholder, for the top job. It’s a wonder he went after the job at all: who would want to become his boss’s boss? At the end of the negotiations, Mohamed had a complicated but bulletproof contract ensuring that, in the event he and the board disagreed about his strategic vision for the company, he would exit with a multimillion-dollar golden parachute.

One of the first things Mohamed did was merge the wireless and cable divisions—a necessary attempt to eliminate duplication (the two sides had been run as if they were separate companies) and heal the rift, but there were more bruised egos when the wireless managers got some of the best jobs. He tried to professionalize the company by introducing strict hierarchies and streamlining upper management.

Edward was now executive VP of emerging business and corporate development, and Melinda senior VP of strategy. The siblings would sometimes challenge Mohamed’s ideas or second-guess his decisions, leaving people to wonder who exactly was in charge, or to place a bet and line up behind one or the other. Melinda was single-mindedly vocal about the need to improve customer service. “She knew it was the company’s boat anchor and she never let it go,” says a senior exec.

Edward showed little outward support for his CEO. Mohamed would hold mandatory quarterly meetings in the Velma Rogers Graham Theatre, located in the Rogers campus, where managers from every division would report on their respective business units. Edward never attended one of them. “It was like the big elephant in the room,” says one manager. “It was a massive snub, and it went on for five years.” (Melinda would occasionally attend, and when she didn’t, she’d have one of her staff do the reporting.)

Mohamed’s role became more challenging as the competitive advantages Rogers had enjoyed began to disappear. Bell, for years the most lumbering, bureaucratic organization in the country, now had a new CEO, George Cope, who was on a mission to make the company more nimble. In 2008, Bell and Telus teamed up to build a new national wireless network that would give their customers the same roaming capabilities as Rogers (as well as access to the iPhone). And the effects of the federal government’s 2008 decision to open the market to other wireless carriers were now becoming clear: the new entrants, whose operations were mainly centred in Toronto, had taken a bite out of Rogers’ business. The years of unbridled growth at Rogers had led to a kind of complacency within the company and a lack of investment in itself. Its internal software systems (for customer or tech support, for example) were in need of upgrading. Even the company’s branding seemed stuck in the ’90s.

The internal culture clash was apparent when the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan announced in 2011 that it wanted to sell its controlling stake in Maple Leaf Sports and ­Entertainment. Teachers hired Morgan Stanley to go in search of suitors, and all of the big Canadian players—Rogers, Bell, Shaw—as well as a few outfits in the U.S., expressed interest. What ensued was a high-stakes game of chicken, with Teachers wanting to maximize their profit, and the suitors, especially Bell and Rogers, not wanting their opponents to win the bid. As the price got higher, Mohamed got cold feet. For him, buying a sports team wasn’t on strategy. Rogers was in the ­connectivity business, not the ego-driven, high-risk sports ownership business. His solution: mitigate the risk. He and George Cope agreed to a joint bid of $1.32 billion and split MLSE 50-50. (They’d joined forces before, broadcasting the 2010 Vancouver Olympics together.)

MLSE was the only major acquisition Rogers made during Mohamed’s tenure, much to the chagrin of the family, who were growing tired of sitting on the sidelines. Edward and Melinda were especially disappointed: they had wanted all of OTPP’s stake.

Not long after the MLSE deal closed, Mohamed went to the Rogers board to outline his strategic plan for the next five years—a plan that included a new organizational chart. The most significant difference between the new chart and the old one was that the new one didn’t include anyone by the name of Rogers. Mohamed appeared to be forcing the board’s hand. He knew that change was already in the air and likely wanted to trigger the parachute clause in his contract. It was either him or the family. While the board and Mohamed may have been bluffing, the end result was that Mohamed walked with his total compensation—$17.2 million—and neither side could say for certain whether he’d quit or been let go.

Mohamed announced his retirement in February 2013. There was consensus among Rogers’ senior management that the company needed a serious reboot, and that this could only come at the hands of a globally minded CEO—which Edward was not. Rogers announced that it had assembled a selection committee, and that neither Edward nor Melinda would be vying for the position.

Mohamed remained on the job for another 10 months, during which he was essentially a lame duck. Restless execs jockeyed for position, workflow slowed and projects stalled, exacerbating the prevailing sense that the company had lost its competitive edge. In all the uncertainty, Edward became the new locus of power, and people began buzzing around his office more.

It was during this unusual time—essentially between CEOs—that the company, eager to reinvigorate its struggling media division, took a gamble and bought the NHL broadcasting rights. It was a mammoth deal, orchestrated by a team including Keith Pelley, the head of media; Scott Moore, Rogers’ president of broadcast; Nadir Mohamed; and Edward ­Rogers. The group called an emergency weekend board meeting, where directors unanimously agreed to the 12-year, $5.2-billion deal.

One of the bigger events to celebrate Mohamed’s retirement was held in the Centennial Room at the Liberty Grand on October 30, 2013, where several hundred guests gathered to see him receive the United Nations Association of Canada’s Global Citizens Award. Mohamed was being honoured for his involvement in mentorship programs like the Rogers Youth Fund, which he’d started. The MC for the evening was the unfailingly perky Seamus O’Regan; Ed Clark, the venerable CEO of TD Bank, delivered the keynote address; and senior Rogers execs like Phil Lind, Paul Beeston and Pelley joined other members of the Toronto business community to raise a glass to the departing CEO. Notably, none of the Rogers family members were in attendance.

The Man Who Would Be King Guy Laurence, the new CEO, who asked the board to remove the Rogers siblings from management positions. (Image: Reuters)
 
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uy Laurence is a brash 53-year-old from Manchester. In his first interview with Rogers’ selection committee, during the summer of 2013, he leaned across the table and said, “I want this job.” He was impressed by the company’s diverse collection of assets, which Ted had had the foresight to buy well before convergence became fashionable. Laurence had previous experience in the media and entertainment field, at MGM Studios and Chrysalis Records, but was most recently the CEO of Vodafone U.K., a privately held subsidiary of the second-biggest cellphone company in the world. Laurence wowed both the Rogers board and the family, whom he met with several times throughout that summer. He had dinner at the Rogers’ family home in Forest Hill and even spent a weekend in the Bahamas with Loretta, where he went fishing with Bernie Gosevitz, an old friend of the Rogers family (they call him “Dr. G.”) and the company’s resident doctor. The Rogers board was particularly struck by Laurence’s hyper-­competitive nature, which no doubt reminded them of Ted.

Rogers has four times as many employees as Vodafone U.K. and is publicly traded, making Laurence something of a risk. But his radical management ideas sounded like just what was needed to rejuvenate the Rogers brand. He had transformed Vodafone’s staid Newbury campus into a workplace of the future. He eliminated offices, replacing them with empty desks, which employees could claim on an as-need basis—the theory being that if they were free to work anywhere, even off-campus, they’d be more empowered to do their jobs. Seven company coffee shops became the preferred meeting places for employees to discuss business. There were no land lines, and paper was banned—employees brought their laptops to meetings. And Laurence eschewed the concept of top-down management, instead allowing employees at any level to make whatever decisions were necessary to get the job done. It was a culture tailored to the tech-savvy, hierarchy-averse members of ­Generation Y.

On December 2, 2013, exactly five years to the day since Ted Rogers died, Guy Laurence arrived at 333 Bloor East and took hold of the office—down the hall from Edward’s—that Nadir Mohamed had vacated only the day before. Laurence spent his first three months on a cross-country “listening tour,” meeting with more than 10,000 employees, including senior managers and board members, as well as customers, suppliers, clients and tech analysts. He asked Rogers ­employees questions like: “What would you most like to see me do as CEO?” and “What would be the worst thing I could do as CEO?” and “What would you like to be able to look back and say about my first year on the job?”

While he was conducting interviews and town hall meetings, Laurence kept his own counsel. He was sphinx-like—­listening to everybody but confiding in no one. In late April, he compiled his report, a 20,000-word document he presented to the board. The findings weren’t entirely surprising, but they put the internal issues like poor customer service into high relief. Everyone was worried the company had lost its way, that it had become slow and risk-averse. Dispirited employees were envious of Telus, with its slick branding and high customer retention rates. They were tired of working for the most loathed company in Canada.

After Laurence made his presentation to the board, he had a separate conversation with a few senior directors. He told them that he believed it would be better for the company if family members no longer had a role in operations. He suggested they help facilitate a smooth exit for Edward and Melinda, ahead of his planned presentation to the Rogers management team on May 23, 2014. The directors found themselves in the same position they’d been in with Mohamed. If they were to keep Guy Laurence as CEO, they had to act.

Thus began the delicate, weeks-long process of extricating the ROTs from the day-to-day operations of the family business. Edward was eventually persuaded to accept the role of a hands-off owner while Laurence undertook the unenviable task of firing staff and streamlining the company. An internal memo saying that Edward was resigning his VP role finally went out to Rogers staff on May 22, the day before the meeting. Convincing Melinda to leave was no less complicated. Two hours before Laurence was scheduled to speak to managers in the Vinci ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, a memo went out announcing her departure.

At the managers’ meeting, Edward stood up to introduce Laurence, delivering a gracious speech about how the new CEO was leading the company into a bold new future and, in the vernacular of his father, how the best was yet to come. While he spoke, Melinda quietly stood at the back of the room, checking her phone.

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uy Laurence likes to talk about himself. During his cross-country tour, he set up an internal blog, which he continues to use to communicate with his employees. Sometimes he blogs about important subjects, like the company’s reorganization or the upcoming launch of NHL coverage on Sportsnet; other times he’ll report on more mundane things like what he ate for dinner or the cleanliness of the washrooms (he’s a bit of a neat freak). He seems to enjoy flaunting his own wealth—writing about his houses in England and France, or the Mercedes he shipped from Europe to Toronto.

He’s been vocal about his plans for the company. His strategy, dubbed Rogers 3.0, includes fixing customer service and accelerating growth. Laurence believes that the NHL broadcasting rights are a project the entire company can rally behind, and one that can be leveraged to help resuscitate the Rogers brand. The rights may not substantially raise ad revenues, but Laurence is hoping they’ll translate into increased revenue in cable and mobile.

Critics of the NHL deal say it has quickly transformed Rogers from a communications company into a sports marketing company, one whose iconic media brands have now, by necessity, become biased proponents of the NHL. Throughout the Rogers campus, digital clocks sit at entrances counting down the days until the puck drops. Tech engineers are working to ensure that recently purchased spectrum translates into faster streaming and improved resolution for customers, salespeople are busy dreaming up new ways to market the NHL to their clients, and just about every Rogers publication—even decidedly un-sporty ones—is required to produce hockey-related content (Flare’s October issue contained a fashionista’s guide to all things hockey). The man from the land of football knows something about sports fandom, and he’s embracing Canada’s game.

Despite Laurence’s apparent openness and his desire to create a culture of mutual trust—especially among his colleagues in upper management—the pervasive feeling on the Rogers campus is insecurity and paranoia. Laurence has already taken a scalpel to the middle- and upper-management ranks, and he says there are more cuts to come. His apparent obsession with secrecy doesn’t help: internal documents are watermarked with recipients’ names so that if something is leaked, he can pinpoint the guilty party. If an internal memo is emailed to someone outside the company, the culprit will be issued a warning. Laurence is a cool, shrewd operator who likes to keep staff on their toes.

Meanwhile, he has convinced the board to approve a ­$100-million renovation of the Rogers buildings, implementing the “hotelling” model he espoused at Vodafone—­employees check in to a desk, then check out. The oft-repeated line at ­Rogers is that the company “will be unrecognizable within a year.” After he successfully overhauled the culture at Vodafone U.K., Laurence said his ultimate goal was to “change the way Britain works.” A lofty ambition to be sure, but changing the way ­Rogers works may be an even greater challenge. No one believes ­Laurence will be in Toronto a day longer than his five-year contract—and some think he won’t even last that long. In the meantime, Edward stands offstage, waiting in the wings, eager to restore the family name.