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Martha Rogers publicly calls for brother Edward to resign as chair of family trust as bitter boardroom brawl continues


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Martha Rogers publicly calls for brother Edward to resign as chair of family trust as bitter boardroom brawl continues

Rogers Communications Inc. director Martha Rogers has publicly called for Edward Rogers to resign as chair of the family trust in a series of tweets targeting her brother.

The siblings are locked in an extraordinary battle in which Martha has aligned with her mother, Loretta Rogers, and sister Melinda Rogers-Hixon, while Edward attempts to remake the company’s board of directors and regain his influence after being fired as chair this week.

As of Friday night, it was unclear who exactly is on the board of directors at Rogers, one of Canada’s biggest communications and media firms.

Martha Rogers began a series of tweets shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday morning, saying she had trouble sleeping because the fate of the company’s 24,000 employees was weighing on her mind.

In a series of five more early-morning tweets she said her brother should “cease, desist and step down,” alluding to his role as chair of a powerful family trust that controls the voting shares of the company.

She also suggested that she had damaging information about him that she would make public and said she would “spend every penny defending the company, employees and Ted’s wishes,” referencing her late father and company founder Ted Rogers.

Martha implied Edward has been leaking stories to the media, aided by communications firm Navigator, and also referenced the now-infamous photo of her brother and his family with Donald Trump, which his wife Suzanne Rogers posted on social media in May.

“The truth about his Trump scandal 5 mos ago, their involvement threatening us to suppress it or else they’ll be ‘severe personal repercussions’ (and they very much can),” read one tweet in part.

“Unlike Ed I have no lawyers, PR spin firms, staff or media training,” she said in a tweet on Saturday afternoon. “Don’t need it. I’m no one special, just a fairly ordinary woman put in extraordinary circumstances. Ted put me on the board as a check and balance to ensure nothing this insane occurs. This is for you Dad.”

Martha Rogers did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday afternoon and Edward Rogers, who issued a brief statement on board-related issues, did not comment on his sister’s tweets.

On top of the deepening family feud, the corporate drama continued over the weekend.

After Edward was voted out as chair of the Rogers Communications board on Thursday, he said he would use his role as chair of the family trust to remove five directors on the Rogers board and replace them with picks of his own.

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Both Rogers Communications and lawyers for Melinda Rogers-Hixon said that he could not do so without holding a shareholder meeting.

By the end of the day Friday, two overlapping groups were both claiming to be the board of directors of Rogers Communications Inc.

Now, Edward is planning to hold a board meeting with his new directors over the weekend. John A. MacDonald, who replaced him as chair of the Rogers board last week, said that meeting “and anything that may arise from it” would be “invalid.”

“The proposal by Mr. Edward Rogers to hold a purported board meeting with his proposed slate of directors this weekend does not comply with laws of British Columbia, where Rogers Communications Inc. is incorporated, and is therefore not valid,” MacDonald said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

“It is disappointing that the former chairman is attempting to act unilaterally without regard for the interests of the company and all of Rogers’ shareholders,” MacDonald said.

In his own statement, Edward Rogers said, “The new board and the company have important business to attend to and we will not engage in debates in the media with former directors,” an apparent reference to MacDonald no longer being on the board after Edward removed him.

He said the meeting will “proceed as planned” and focus in part on securing approval for the company’s $20-billion deal to acquire Shaw Communications Inc.

Separately Saturday, Rogers CEO Joe Natale also issued a statement indicating he and his management team are committed to the company and to seeing through the Shaw transaction.

His comment came after the Globe and Mail reported on Friday that he and many of the executives were prepared to depart if Edward gets his way and reconstitutes the board in his favour.

Edward wants to remove MacDonald, John Clappison, David Peterson, Bonnie Brooks and Ellis Jacob from the board and replace them with Michael Cooper, Jack Cockwell, Jan Innes, Ivan Fecan and John Kerr.

He has said those changes were effective as of Friday, when he sent a resolution to that effect. The Rogers board and lawyers for Melinda Rogers-Hixon dispute that.

(Peterson is also vice-chair of Torstar Corp., the company that owns the Toronto Star.)

Christine Dobby is a Toronto-based business reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @christinedobby

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