In ancient times, fratricide was a much simpler affair. Take Cain, for instance — he did his brother Abel’s head in with a stone. Today’s methods are far more complicated. Just ask Edward Rogers III, chairman of Rogers Communications, the largest media company in Canada. His attempts to wrest control of his family’s £18 billion dollar firm have set his entire family at each other’s throats. Comparisons with Succession were inevitable. The difference is the dysfunctional Roy family depicted in the HBO show would never be as calculating or as cold as the Rogers clan.
Rogers owns everything exciting and lucrative in Canada. It has stakes in telecoms, media, hockey, baseball, basketball, and American football. The bigshot founder Edward Rogers Jr – Ted – became Canada’s fifth richest man before he died of heart failure in 2008. He did not appoint an heir, which left his descendants to fight over his legacy like a bag of hungry snakes.
At a time of great importance in the Rogers story – the company, which has struggled since the death of Ted, was about to buy a rival called Shaw Media for £15 billion – it all hit the fan. Edward, the 52-year-old son of the late Ted, was trying to oust rivals to secure his own position, and become capo di tutti capi in the family business.
In September, Edward, who is Rogers’s board chairman, tried to get Joe Natale, the chief executive, booted out. His replacement was Tony Staffieri, a former chief financial officer. The coup was undone through the most schoolboy of errors. Staffieri pocket-dialled Natale, who then overheard Staffieri yakking about how he was going to sack him. In a paranoid corporate world where email accounts are hacked, phones are put in the fridge to prevent digital eavesdropping, and gremlin private investigators follow their targets around in tinted window cars, it is hard to believe that Edward’s plot was foiled by such an amateur mistake.
In any case, it has kicked off a vicious, Bible-grade round of family feuding. Loretta Rogers, the 82-year-old mother of Edward and widow of Ted, came out swinging for Natale. Although Rogers is publicly traded, the family retains voting control. So Loretta, and her two daughters Martha and Melinda, who are directors of the company, fired Edward as chairman of the board. Edward hit back by replacing five board directors with his own goons, who voted to re-elect him. His own mother issued a statement saying her boy was proceeding down a “misguided and miscalculated path”, adding: “He should stop immediately, as his behaviour simply serves to underscore his seemingly wanton disregard for good governance.” Ouch.
After these manoeuvres Martha, who has been yanking the pins off incendiary tweets and hurling them at her brother, posted: “I see Ed has appointed himself the Chairman. LOL. This should be taken as seriously as if he appointed himself the King of England.”
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