After six months without a permanent chief executive officer, Rogers Communications Inc. is preparing to welcome Joe Natale on board next week, bringing an end to an awkward and uncertain leadership transition.
Mr. Natale will start about two months earlier than expected thanks to a "confidential" deal Rogers struck with his former employer Telus Corp., which agreed to release Mr. Natale from the terms of a non-compete clause that would have barred him from working at the rival firm until July.
Mr. Natale, the long-time Telus executive who left the Vancouver-based telecom provider after about a year as CEO in 2015, will officially begin as Rogers's CEO on April 19, the company said Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sources close to Rogers say the company was initially optimistic it could negotiate an earlier start date for Mr. Natale. But after several months passed and Rogers was unable to reach an agreement with Telus, it announced in late January that he would not start until July.
Until Thursday's announcement from the company, Mr. Natale had never publicly commented on his plans to become CEO of Rogers. His new start date means curious employees will finally get a better sense of their new leader and his plans for the company.
Alan Horn, chairman of the board and a loyal adviser to the Rogers family, has served as interim CEO since the company ousted its last chief executive, British import Guy Laurence, last October.
But since that time, the telecommunications and media company has largely followed the strategic plan put in place by Mr. Laurence. Among rank-and-file Rogers employees, there is great interest in what new direction Mr. Natale will take, while some senior leaders are anxious to understand what it could mean for their own future at the company.
There has already been some turnover in the upper ranks of management: chief corporate affairs officer Jacob Glick left Rogers in March while chief strategy officer Frank Boulben has announced plans to leave by the end of this month. Both were high-profile hires of Mr. Laurence, who devoted significant energy to building his own executive leadership team after taking over in late 2013.
In another change, chief brand officer Dale Hooper, who used to report directly to the CEO, now reports to Dirk Woessner, president of Rogers' consumer-business unit. Mr. Woessner, another star recruit of Mr. Laurence's, is widely respected in the company and many employees say they hope he will remain with Rogers through the transition.
For his part, Mr. Natale is a highly regarded executive who was squeezed out of Telus after just 15 months in charge when Darren Entwistle, who had served as CEO for 14 years before moving to a role as executive chairman, returned to the CEO's job.
Since then, the Rogers board had its eye on Mr. Natale, sources confirmed, and the company began courting Mr. Natale last year.
During his 12-year stint at Telus, Mr. Natale gained a reputation as a talented leader who spearheaded Telus's renowned customer-service strategy, which helped the wireless provider keep its customer turnover low compared with its peers.
He will be expected to apply that expertise to Rogers's own problems with customer service. It's an issue Mr. Laurence took steps to tackle during his tenure, but there is still significant room for improvement.
Mr. Natale will also be faced with the roll-out of a new television platform – which Rogers has licensed from Comcast Corp. after taking a $484-million writedown on its own efforts to develop Internet-protocol television (IPTV) – and managing Rogers's all-important wireless business, which has regained momentum in recent quarters.
"We are thrilled to have a person of [Mr. Natale's] calibre and experience lead Rogers," Edward Rogers, the deputy chairman of the family-controlled company which bears his name, said in a statement.
Mr. Natale, who will also join the board of directors at the company's annual general meeting next week, added that he is "really excited" to join the company.