Ted Rogers: A Titan and a Visionary
Mr. Rogers, known for his relentless drive, built Rogers Communications into a Canadian leader in wireless telecommunications, cable television, broadcasting, publishing and more. Mr. Rogers’ name is synonymous with innovative, high-quality communications products across Canada.
He leaves his wife, Loretta; four children: Lisa,
Mr. Rogers Sr. died young in 1939 at age 38. “I was five years old when he died,”
That he did. Rogers Communications Inc. owns Canada’s largest wireless telecommunications company, the country’s largest cable company, the Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome), 52 radio stations, several television properties including five CityTV outlets, five OMNI multicultural stations, Rogers Sportsnet, the Shopping Channel and more than 70 consumer and trade magazines.
Forbes magazine once called Mr. Rogers “Canada’s most obsessed-about media mogul” and a “Lion in Winter.” But for an eternal optimist like Mr. Rogers, there really was only Spring and Summer – and the next big deal he could do or the next great innovation he could bring to market; from FM radio and crystal clear cable TV reception in the 1960s to cellular phones in the 1980s to today’s high-speed Internet to the home and wireless email, video and web browsing to the handset.
In naming him Man of the Year in 2000, Toronto Life magazine dubbed him “Mr.
“Education can remake a country, a city, can make it … a different place” in only one generation, Mr. Rogers told Toronto Life.
Over the years, he and Loretta also donated tens of millions of dollars to charities such as the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Woodstock General Hospital, Sheena’s Place and the Mayo Clinic in
In 1990, Mr. Rogers was made an Officer of The Order of Canada and in 1994 was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. In 2002, Mr. Rogers was the first Canadian inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in
A graduate of the
While in law school in 1960, he bought CHFI radio with an
“I may have van Gogh’s ear for music, but I could see crystal clear that FM with its superior sound was the future for radio,” he once said. With so few FM radios in Torontonians’ homes, Mr. Rogers decided to buy FM receivers in bulk and then sell them at cost to increase CHFI’s audience. During these hectic times, he would often send his secretary to law class in his place to take notes. He was called to the bar in 1962, but never practiced law.
Through all the successes of his life, Mr. Rogers retained an enigmatic streak. He could be charming to a fault or unleash a legendary temper. He never wanted to see his family lose the company as it did after his father’s death, yet he almost lost it several times in his own lifetime by taking big gambles. He feared dying young like his father, but was consumed by work and put strain on his health, even working from the hospital bed more than once. He had no time for sports, yet became one of the most influential men in Canadian sports through the Blue Jays and his company’s involvement in professional and amateur tennis.
Former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor
Mr. Rogers’ ancestors were Quakers from New England who immigrated to Canada in 1801 and settled north of
Entrepreneurship ran through the family. His great-grandfather,
After Mr. Rogers Sr. died with little capital built up or life insurance, all the companies bearing his name were either sold or shuttered. At age 7, Ted’s widowed mother sent him to boarding school, first to
(During these years, his mother re-married and
In the 1950s, Mr. Rogers moved into his first real commercial endeavours, starting with a music business: supplying orchestras (including
In 1957, Mr. Rogers met
Mr. Rogers’ entrepreneurial streak sometimes worried
After the wedding, Robinson released funds from his daughter’s trust for the couple to buy their home in
After Lord Martonmere’s passing in 1989, Mr. Rogers regaled audiences with stories about how “we’ve had triple mortgages on our home to meet payrolls and we dared not tell her parents!”
Though Mr. Rogers has left a strong and powerful company, it was not always easy. “Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart,” he would say.
To underline that point, Mr. Rogers would tell audiences one of his favorite stories:
“One year, we just didn’t have sufficient cash to pay all the suppliers for a period of time. So, after meeting payroll, I would put all the bills in a hat and keep drawing invoices until we ran out of money.
“Can you believe that some creditors didn’t appreciate such innovation? Some would shout at me over the telephone. I often got a headache and asked them to stop yelling.
“With anger in their voices, they’d ask me what I would do if they kept yelling. ‘Very simple,’ I’d say, ‘I won’t put your bill in the hat next week!’
“Nobody sued – they all got paid with interest. No one in my lifetime has ever lost
In addition to CHFI in those early years, Mr. Rogers, along with the
As his broadcasting business grew, a new technology caught his eye. In 1967, he entered the cable television business and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rogers pioneered cable television in the 1960s and 1970s with superior picture quality, more channels through converters and community and multicultural programming. (Innovation continues today with Rogers cable a North American leader in the development and deployment of high-speed Internet service as well as digital television, video-on-demand and cable telephony.)
In 1979, Rogers became Canada’s largest cable company by taking over the much larger Canadian Cablesystems Ltd. and in 1980 purchased Premier Cablesystems in
By the mid-1980s,
To fund his expansion and innovation strategy, Rogers met in Beverly Hills with Michael Milken at
Colloquially known as “junk bonds”, this financing tool was bitter-sweet for Mr. Rogers. He despised the “junk” connotation and its implications on his company. In his later years, Mr. Rogers strived for an “investment grade” rating for his company, which he achieved. But there is little doubt many of the company’s achievements would not have been possible without the high-interest corporate bonds.
Besides growing cable assets on both sides of the border, Rogers entered the wireless phone market in 1985 with partners
Unlike television, where the trend was from over-the-air to wired reception, Mr. Rogers envisioned that telephones were the exact opposite because of changing lifestyles.
Today that company, now called Rogers Wireless, is the largest – and fastest growing – wireless service provider in Canada, available to 93% of Canadians, with more than 7 million subscribers from coast-to-coast.
In 1989, Rogers jumped into the long distance business by purchasing 40 per cent of CN/CP Telecommunications (later Unitel). Things started out favourably with the 1992 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision to open up the market that for a century had been a monopoly held by incumbent phone companies like
But in the end, it was the most expensive mistake of
“Ted will say things are brighter than they are sometimes and I’ll know that’s not true. They’re not bright at all, but he thinks they are. That’s his force,” his long-time chief lieutenant and Rogers vice-chairman
Within five years, Rogers got all the lost Unitel money back and
At age 60,
“Ted doesn’t have a business life and a personal life – it’s all one – he works 18 hours a day every day,”
This work ethic was legendary. He expected his management team to work just like he did. His personality and work ethic instilled tremendous loyalty.
Mr. Rogers could take a joke, and there are many cases where he could give as good as he got. One example involved fellow cable operator
By the mid-1990s, potentially the greatest threat to Rogers’ cable assets arrived on the scene – the so-called “Death Stars” or direct-to-home satellite receivers that were small enough to fit almost anywhere and offered digital picture quality. Amazingly, instead of hunkering down into a bunker mentality, Mr. Rogers continued his “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” business approach.
During these turbulent times, the company made a misstep with the “negative option”. This sales process required customers to alert the cable company if they did not want new services, instead of putting the onus on the provider to “sell” the new services. The practice was commonly used in many industries, but this time it created a major consumer backlash.
Rogers quickly reversed course within days of the outcry, but the public relations damage was done.
The late 90s were difficult years for Mr. Rogers and his company with the stock hitting an all-time low of
But, ever the optimist,
But, he didn’t disappoint: High-speed Internet connections to the home; digital television; text-messaging, email and ring tones for mobile phones; and more all quickly arrived on the scene for Rogers customers.
Immediately into the new century, Mr. Rogers was back in acquisition mode. In 2000, he bought the Toronto Blue Jays, ostensibly with the break-up fee paid to Rogers Communications for the failed friendly takeover bid of
Then in 2004, Mr. Rogers really rolled up his sleeves and sharpened his pencil. Telus Corp. attempted a hostile bid for Microcell Communications and its Fido brand of wireless phones. This was a company long in the sights of Rogers. He believed Fido a perfect fit for Rogers Wireless because of similar corporate cultures and they were the only two wireless companies in Canada using the international-standard GSM technology.
The problem was that Rogers Wireless partner AT&T Corp. was blocking Rogers from riding in as Fido’s White Knight. So, Rogers bought out AT&T for
Today, Rogers Communications has annual revenue of
Of his children, both Edward and Melinda have followed their father in the family business with each holding senior roles at Rogers. Edward is President of Rogers Cable Communications Inc. and Melinda is Senior Vice President, Strategy and Development at Rogers Communications.
SOURCE Rogers Communications Inc.