Former Rogers CEO Joe Natale is suing the company for wrongful termination and breach of contract, alleging that Rogers Chairman Edward Rogers engaged in “malicious, arrogant and oppressive conduct.”
In a statement of claim filed Thursday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Natale accused Edward and his wife Suzanne Rogers of trying to “smear her reputation” following their November 2021 ouster.
But Rogers called his former chief executive’s claims “baseless” and alleged that Natale “committed serious misconduct” while he was at the helm of the company. He said that, as a result, he has now fired Natale for cause.
In court documents, Natale accused Edward and Suzanne Rogers of hiring HBO actor Brian Cox. Succession to create a “degrading” video about him and allegedly distribute it to family, friends and colleagues, before it was finally reported by the media.
The video included a message congratulating Edward Rogers on his “real-life succession at Rogers Communications” and used a swear word to describe Natale’s departure from the company.
He said he and his firm Natale Industries Inc. are entitled to a combined $24 million, including $4 million of an unpaid bonus related to the closing of Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw Communication Inc. in April.
None of the claims in Natale’s lawsuit have been proven in court.
fight in the boardroom
Natale’s departure from the Toronto-based telecoms giant was announced after a boardroom power struggle over the president’s desire to replace him with then-CFO Tony Staffieri.
Edward’s initial attempt to oust Natale in favor of his No. 2 led to Staffieri’s departure in September 2021, as well as a board vote that saw Edward removed from his seat at the head of the table.
Edward drafted a shareholder resolution, without a shareholder meeting, to oust the five directors who had challenged him. The company filed a legal challenge to its revamped board, sparking a court battle over who actually served on it.
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that Edward Rogers’ statement was legitimate, and he was reinstated as president.
Staffieri replaced Natale as president and chief executive officer after the ruling.
In court documents, Natale said she negotiated and agreed to the terms of their separation in a series of meetings with Edward in September 2021, which were approved by Rogers’ board.
But he said a group of board members asked him to stay on as chief executive against Edward’s wishes “to support the strategic priorities of the business, including completing the Shaw Deal and supporting complex regulatory approvals and integration efforts.” post-merger”.
Natale said the company improved his terms of employment into written contracts in October 2021, before he was fired the next month. He said the company is contractually bound by those agreements to grant him certain rights upon termination without cause, but has refused to do so, “instead, it only provides Natale with compensation consistent with termination without cause” under his prior contract. .
In a statement, Natale’s spokesman, Bill Walker of MidtownPR, said “it is unfortunate that Rogers is not honoring the commitments he made to Mr. Natale.”
“His employment contract, implemented by the board of directors at the time, was clearly articulated, properly executed and designed to ensure continuity during the Shaw merger,” Walker said in an email.
“We trust that the courts will share this view.”
Rogers’ spokeswoman, Sarah Schmidt, said the company plans to “vigorously defend against his unfounded claim” and will file a counterclaim to address the alleged “inappropriate behavior” by Natale.
“An independent investigation revealed that Joe Natale committed serious misconduct during his time as CEO. As a result, we have made the necessary decision to terminate him for cause,” Schmidt said.
“While we would have preferred to discuss this matter in private, Mr. Natale has left us no choice.”
Schmidt said Rogers’ investigation revealed that, in October 2021, Natale knew that steps were being taken to make changes to the company’s board that would end his tenure as chief executive. She alleged that Natale awarded himself “excessive compensation without proper board approval” prior to his departure.
“This and other actions were a serious violation of his fiduciary duties as CEO and director of a public company,” he said.
“Mr. Natale was aware of the investigation and was given an opportunity to respond. He understood the implications of his findings and the lawsuit is an attempt to preempt the investigation.”
Earlier this year, Sun Life Financial Inc. appointed Natale to its board of directors.
Natale had been a CEO of Telus Corp. before joining Rogers.