Corner Office Shifts: Empire begins leadership transition

Plus, Transat names a new brand lead and the latest from Rogers' dueling boardrooms.
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Empire picks new CFO, moves previous one into new growth role

After what it is describing as “a rigorous succession planning process” to “develop the next generation” of talent grocery giant Empire has moved one exec into a key c-suite role, with another transitioning into a new position focused on long-term growth.

Matt Reindel has been promoted to CFO at the company, having already played a key part as SVP since 2019, including in its purchase of Longo’s. Reindel is taking over a position previously held by Mike Vels, who is moving into a new chief development officer position.

Vels will continue to lead the company’s real estate, technology and enterprise project teams – as well as any mergers or acquisitions – but will take a new focus on helping the company meet growth targets and improve internal execution.

Vels joined Empire in 2017, and since then, Medline says, has been “instrumental” in the Project Sunrise and Project Horizon business turnaround plans. He adds that in the new role, Vels will also be focusing on the company’s ambitions “post-Horizon.”

Transat hires new senior brand lead

Leisure airline Transat has hired Maria Pagano as senior director of brand and customer experience. Reporting to VP of marketing and international markets Xavier Szwengler, Pagano has been tasked with overseeing the strategic positioning of the Air Transat brand in both domestic and international markets, as well as implementing an “outstanding and personalized” customer experience through all of the company’s travel operations.

Pagano is coming off of ten years at Montreal technology company CAE, where she was responsible for marketing the company’s commercial aviation products. She also brings marketing experience from Bus.com and Bombardier’s aviation business.

A lot has been going on for Transat this year. In April, it appointed Annick Guérard to succeed company co-founder Jean-Marc Eustache as CEO, and added to its c-suite again earlier this month when it hired Kruger Energy’s Patrick Bui as CFO.  Those appointments came after Air Canada’s proposed takeover of Transat was called off after two year. Of course, there has also been the suspension of Air Transat flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the airline resumed flights at the end of July, and it has since announced new direct routes that will begin next year between Montreal and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Amsterdam, as well between Quebec City and London.

Rogers board asks Rogers’ other board for a speedy resolution on court filing

An especially tumultuous five days at the tail end of a tumultuous month for Rogers Communications continued into Tuesday morning as one side of a leadership struggle asked the other to quickly resolve dispute over which directors currently sit on the company’s board as it comes to the courts.

The latest news is a report from The Globe and Mail that lawyers representing Edward Rogers have contacted a law firm acting for the company to encourage them to respond quickly to a legal petition soon to be filed with the British Columbia Supreme Court meant to resolve the matter. The swift action is necessary, the letter said, as Edward Rogers has received inquires from the Ontario Securities Commission. Though the letter did not say what the OSC’s inquiry was regarding, one of the body’s functions is to investigate instances that obstruct investor ability to make informed decisions, which is of utmost importance as the company remains in the midst of finalizing its takeover of Shaw.

The question of who currently makes up the Rogers board is one that will undoubtedly impact the future of Canada’s second-largest media and telecommunications company. On Thursday, Rogers’ board voted to remove Edward Rogers – son of company founder Ted Rogers – as its chair, which came after it blocked his attempt to remove CEO Joe Natale. However, Edward Rogers remained chair of the Rogers family trust, which controls 97.5% of the company’s shares, and he used that capacity to draft and adopt a resolution to replace five directors.

The new board re-appointed Edward Rogers to the chair position during its first meeting on Sunday. However, other board members – namely, the five who were removed, as well as Edward Rogers’ mother and two sisters – claim the meeting and board itself is invalid, saying that a board reconstitution cannot be made without a meeting of shareholders. Edward Rogers has contended through statements that the law in British Columbia, where the company is incorporated, only requires a written resolution, a matter which will now be brought to the courts to resolve.

The filing was made Tuesday afternoon. The documents include in the filing also claimed that Edward Rogers had the support of the board to remove Natale, supported by a majority vote, questioning his leadership after the Shaw deal was first announced. When a compensation plan hadn’t been finalized with CFO Tony Staffieri, Edward Rogers’ pick to assume the CEO role, the board deferred the resolution to make the move official, and had changed its mind two days later. The board has since reaffirmed that it has full faith in Natale’s leadership.

The internal power struggle at Rogers has become increasingly public over the last week, and has included reports that Natale had learned of the place to displace him thanks to a pocket dial from now-departed CFO Tony Staffieri; Martha Rogers criticizing her brother and his board through her Twitter account; and a story in The Toronto Star on Monday that Edward Rogers attempted to oppose efforts by Bell and MLSE’s Larry Tanenbaum to retain Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri.