Battle for control of Rogers Communications heads to court

By Moira Warburton and Ann Maria Shibu

(Reuters) -A battle for control of the board of Rogers Communications Inc, one of Canada’s largest telecoms companies, is headed to court after rival factions claimed they were in charge following a family feud that erupted into the open.

Last week, the company’s board voted to remove Edward Rogers, son of the late founder Ted Rogers, as chair after he tried to replace CEO Joe Natale with another executive. The move put him at odds with his sisters and mother.

A Rogers Communications Inc spokesperson issued a statement on Sunday from Ted Rogers’ widow and two daughters reiterating support for CEO Natale.

“We unequivocally support Joe Natale as CEO and support his management team,” Melinda Rogers-Hixon, Martha Rogers and their mother Loretta Rogers said in the statement. They and five fellow board directors had voted on Thursday to remove Edward Rogers as chair.

While family differences and disagreements at a board level are not uncommon, a public spat is rare in Canadian corporate landscape.

A reconstituted board under Edward Rogers held an initial meeting on Sunday and said in a statement it was disappointed that some within the company had resisted recognizing the change of directors that took effect on Friday.

Edward Rogers intends to initiate legal proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court to confirm the shareholder resolution that created his reconstituted board, the statement said.

Edward Rogers is chair and representative of the Rogers Control Trust, the family-owned entity which controls the majority of Rogers Communications shares.

He said last week he was removing the five directors who voted against him and replacing them with his own candidates.

But Rogers Communications said that this action was not valid, and on Sunday reiterated that no other individuals had the authority to act as the board of Rogers.

The fight comes as Rogers Communications’ is seeking to buy Shaw Communications for C$20 billion ($16.2 billion) which has attracted the attention of regulators in Canada’s highly concentrated telecoms market. Both sides of the family have said they support the deal.

($1 = 1.2371 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver and Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jane Merriman)