Rick has extensive experience with high net worth individuals and families, working with them in both a financial and governance capacity. He thrives on understanding the business and entrepreneurial journey of individuals and families and then using creative and strategic thinking skills to help them succeed. In this article, Rick explains the four lessons about family business that we can learn from the Rogers Family feud and Ted Rogers.
The Rogers Family Feud
Rogers Communications has been making headlines after media reports emerged that Edward Rogers, son of late company founder Ted Rogers, wanted to remove CEO Joe Natale and reshuffle corporate leadership.
Multiple reports said the plan was blocked by other board members, including Edward Rogers’ sisters and mother, and his attempt led to him being replaced as corporate chairman. However, Edward Rogers wasn’t going to go quietly into the night, ensuing in courtroom drama and a large family feud.
How did this syrup-like situation start? Thank company founder Ted or blame Ted? Is Ted Rogers ruling from the grave or ruining from the grave? The spirit of Ted looms large in the present Rogers Family feud. We’re calling in HBO’s “Succession” as required B roll on newscasts.
The familiar narrative the media has trotted out with this saga is that this is another dysfunctional family displaying their used COVID masks in public and about to go up in flames. That this is an example of how not to do things. Wrong.
Despite braying in the media, here’s what the fracas does not reveal. It’s not that family businesses don’t work. They do, and often better than non-family businesses. It’s not that power struggles only exist in family businesses. That’s not true.
After having advised many highly successful families, my view is that the Rogers Family saga offers at least four Ted-sized positive lessons on aspects of the family business.
Ted wanted the family name up in lights and on buildings. Seymour Schulich would be proud. So, family members are willing to scrap for the family legacy and they want the family business to succeed. They have differing views, but their fierce commitment to the success of the enterprise is good. I have many clients who are motivated by saving and preserving the family name on the building. That motivation may be the entrepreneurial juice to save the day and stare down mountains of debt. Ted personified this dynamic.
The tradition of turbo-charged ego, reflected in Ted, continues. A wallflower could not have built the Rogers Empire. And a wallflower will not maintain control of the fiefdom. The best way to understand the Rogers Family shenanigans is to brush up on the Bard and English history. The Heir to the Throne, Edward Rogers (the only son of Ted), is doing battle against his own mother and sisters. At the same time, big personalities often achieve great things—not just super-sized, but Ted-sized. My clients are often headed by entrepreneurs who have spent a lifetime defying the odds, slaying the naysayers and swashbuckling their way to success. A turbo-charged ego helps.
Ted set up a structure that separated voting control and ownership. In short, there is a family trust which controls the voting shares, even if the majority of equity is owned by others. This is fine as long as people buying in understand the rules of the game. They want their economic return, and they will forgo a measure of control. So, that’s what happened. Edward is chair and he asserted control, whining by others aside. The structure worked. The outcome is that the courts decided that proper governance was followed and that the structure of the trust prevailed and that the person in the position of power, Edward could proceed. So, my clients can set up a structure with the laws and their desire, as it is their company and they can do as they wish. The court agreed.
Ted was an assertive patriarch. The subliminal message to family members was that this trait gets the job done in a milieu of competing interests. In any family, there will be different motivations, abilities, wealth and perspectives. With the Rogers clan, it is on a public and supersized scale, but it applies to all family business. There is a distinction between ownership, management and family. Some family members are running the business—and those that do often get the chirping from those on the sidelines. As noted by the B.C. Supreme Court judge, the rest is just noise. The sidelines may be populated by those who wish they were running things. They may need money. They may be jealous. Ted steamed ahead. Ed is doing so. If you are running a family business, or any business in general, you are in the leadership position because you are getting paid to make those difficult choices.
So, the spirit of Ted lives on, as he remains the most influential player in the Rogers Family kerfuffle. Above all, the lesson is not that family business is not good, but family business done wrong is not good.
This material contains the current opinions of the author and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Nicola Wealth is registered as a Portfolio Manager, Exempt Market Dealer and Investment Fund Manager with the required provincial securities commissions.