Loretta Rogers, the matriarch of the Rogers family, has died at age 83, the family said Saturday.
“The Rogers Family is profoundly saddened by our mother’s passing. We are grieving together for an amazing woman who held love and compassion in her heart, kindness in her soul and who possessed an incredible strength of character,” the family said in a statement posted on Twitter by Martha as well as Melinda Rogers-Hixon, Loretta’s daughters.
In the post, Martha Rogers called her mother a “beautiful soul.”
The family is asking for privacy “at this time.”
As well, her son Edward Rogers, whom Loretta was engaged in a bitter legal fight regarding the company’s future in the fall, said in a statement posted to the company website that he and his sisters are “profoundly saddened by our mother’s passing.”
“We are grieving for an amazing woman who had love and compassion in her heart, kindness in her soul, and who possessed an incredible strength of character. She lived a full and vibrant life and we, like all those who knew her, will deeply miss her leadership and guidance,” he said.
Loretta served as the corporate director of Rogers Communications since 1964, which was founded by her late husband, Ted, who died in 2008.
Not only was Loretta instrumental in establishing Rogers Communications, she had “institutional knowledge and memory” that was “essential to the effective functioning of a corporation like Rogers,” said Dimitry Anastakis, a professor in Canadian business history at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
Ted’s prowess as a businessman is often remembered more due to gender stereotypes, which is why it’s important to recognize Loretta’s legacy, said Anastakis.
“Ted Rogers does not become Ted Rogers without Loretta,” he said. “She was basically his partner for most of it … her and Ted built this incredible firm,” he said.
She was born April 13, 1939 in London, England to a British member of Parliament and an heiress, according to the book “High Wire Act” by Loretta Van Hasselt about Ted’s life and career.
Loretta borrowed $450,000 in the early 1960s (just under $4.5 million in 2022) from her father to help fund her husband’s career, and in turn became his business partner, according to the book.
Joe Martin, also a professor of business history at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said he knew Ted since he was a young man, and in a high-pressure business environment, Loretta “brought an incredible amount of balance” and had a big impact on the family and business.
Rogers as a company changed the way Canadians communicate with each other, added Anastakis.
But, Loretta’s legacy is also “ambiguous” due to the tumultuous relationship with her son over the last many months, he said.
The Rogers family, including Loretta, was embroiled in a divisive battle for control of their namesake company last fall. The dispute pitted Edward against his mother and sisters Martha and Melinda.
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Edward wanted to fire then-CEO Joe Natale and replace him with former chief financial officer Tony Staffieri, but his mother and sisters disagreed with that call.
The company’s board of directors, which included Loretta and the three Rogers siblings, voted Edward out as chair of the board, but he was reinstated by a newly constituted board after removing and replacing four directors.
A court ruling later determined that Edward, as chair of the family trust that controls 97.5 per cent of Rogers Communications’ voting shares, had the power to appoint those directors to the board using a written resolution and without calling a shareholder meeting.
Loretta’s relationship with her only son appeared fraught during those weeks. At one point in the legal fight, she filed an affidavit stating Edward’s conduct was putting what she and her late husband had built “at risk” and said, “nothing worried (Ted) more than a needless public spectacle.”
“When you take your son to court over your husband’s and your business and you lose, and you have what is clearly a volatile and bitter courtroom, boardroom and family fight over the future of an enterprise … that’s a very hard thing,” said Anastakis.
When the dust settled following the court case and Staffieri’s assumption of the CEO’s job, the family seemed to call a truce, with no further legal salvos against each other.
“On the one hand, (Rogers) has an amazing legacy and an important statement about the role of women in business … but at the same time it’s a challenging thing because of the difficulties … in how things evolved in the courtroom,” he said.
“It’s sad that she’s passed and in some ways, just as sad that the end of her life was marked by this kind of conflict in her own family,” he said.
The advisory committee to the Rogers family trust is made up of 10 members, including Loretta, and it is not clear what will happen to her seat.
The other members of the committee are Edward, Martha and Melinda as well as their sister Lisa Rogers; their cousin David Robinson; Toronto Mayor John Tory; Phil Lind and Alan Horn, former Rogers executives and advisers to the family; and Toby Hull, a childhood friend of Ted.
Rogers Communications Inc. also posted a statement to their website early Saturday evening, stating that Rogers passed away peacefully in her home “surrounded by family.”
“Loretta lived a full and vibrant life who dedicated herself to family, friendship, community and business,” the statement reads. It also highlighted her charitable donations including founding the Loretta A. Rogers Chair in Eating Disorders at Toronto General and Western Hospital.
Tory also offered his condolences in a statement and said Rogers’ “intelligent considered view was a key factor in any major Rogers decision.”
“Loretta Rogers was a tower of strength, especially for her late husband Ted as he built one of Canada’s great companies. She was the matriarch of a great family and a generous community builder. She was a quiet, warm, strong woman who Ted Rogers often relied upon when challenging times came about, and there were many over the years,” he said. Tory served as the CEO of Rogers Media from 1995-99.
Christine Dobby is a Toronto-based business reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @christinedobby
Olivia Bowden is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: [email protected]
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