Rogers Communications, one of Canada's largest communications and media companies, has named the head of Vodaphone U.K. as its new CEO - keen to bring his "competitive instinct" to boost its customer base and bottom line.
Guy Laurence, 52, will take over in December as the CEO of the wireless, cable and media company, replacing Nadir Mohamed who had previously announced his retirement from Rogers.
"We want him to apply his experience and his talent to building shareholder value and improving our customer experience as much as we ever can, because we're always trying to do that," said Rogers' board member John Tory, a member of the committee who chose Laurence, on Thursday.
"If we hadn't seen that competitive instinct in this man he wouldn't have been hired," Tory said.
Laurence has 30 years of experience in telecommunications, pay television and media. He first joined Vodafone in 2000, holding a number of increasingly senior roles, including CEO of Vodafone Netherlands, before becoming CEO of Vodafone UK in 2008. There he cut jobs, helped increase the company's profits and reduced customer complaints.
Telecom analyst Eamon Hoey said he expects Laurence to be a "transformational" CEO who will shake things up at Rogers, noting that Mohamed took over from company founder Ted Rogers.
"It's almost been like a caretaker government," said Hoey, of Hoey Associates Management Consultants Inc. in Toronto.
"Consequently, what we've slowly seen is Bell and Telus eating into their markets."
Making up the loss of cellphone customers and wireless revenue to Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) will be a priority for the new CEO.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose said Laurence will also have to improve customer service and cut costs aggressively in Rogers cable division as it competes with Bell's Internet protocol TV service.
"But perhaps his biggest challenge will be making peace with the government in light of this summer's Verizon wars, which thankfully seem behind us," Ghose said.
Rogers, along with Bell and Telus, challenged the entry of the big U.S. telecom into the Canadian market as a new player, giving it advantages over them in purchasing wireless spectrum.
However, Verizon said recently that it wasn't interested in entering Canada's wireless market while also announcing that it had bought a large stake held in the company by Vodafone for $130 billion.
Laurence takes over shortly before the Canadian spectrum auction in January and called Rogers an "iconic" and well-respected company.
"Its unique mix of wireless, cable and media assets offer a brilliant platform to provide innovative service to Canadians," he said. "I intend to build on the strong foundation established under Nadir’s leadership to compete and win in the market."
Vodafone is a major wireless provider with operations and investments in numerous countries around the world.
Toronto-based Rogers is Canada's largest cable TV operator, a major magazine publisher, TV and radio broadcaster and owner of the Toronto Blue Jays.
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