Ted Rogers’ status as man ahead of his time was cemented by the tributes from former employees, competitors and analysts we received the day after he died.
Edward Samuel “Ted” Rogers, chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc., died at the age of 75 at his Toronto home Monday night.
Rogers Communications operates cable television, wireless personal communications services, broadcasting and publishing companies in Canada. Revenues for the first nine months of this year exceeded $8 billion (US$6.45 billion).
Ted Rogers’ career is proof that success in technology requires audacity and risk-taking.
The son of Edward Rogers, who was awarded an experimental television station during the 1930, Ted Rogers founded his broadcasting company in 1960. He started laying coax cable at a time when most urban couch potatoes could get their favourite channels with an antenna. During the early 1980s, he sunk a fortune into building Cantel as a separate entity. At the time, Cantel and Bell Mobility were commonly referred to as “car phone” companies and perceived as niche players offering high-end services. Cantel was later re-named Rogers AT&T Wireless, before dropping the AT&T moniker.
In addition to wireless and cable, Rogers’ group of companies also publishes magazines and operates five television and 53 radio stations.
Canwest Global Communications Corp. competes with Rogers in broadcasting and publishing. In a press release, Canwest president Leonard Asper said: “Ted Rogers will be remembered by us all not only as a competitor who played fairly but more importantly as a reliable business partner and personal friend.”
Asper also described him as the executive who “almost single-handedly positioned Rogers as a leader in the wireless and broadband age.”
Ivan Fecan, president of Toronto media firm CTV Globemedia Inc., described Rogers as “both a wonderful partner and very tough competitor. But at all times, he was a gentleman and his word was his bond. Our thoughts go out to his family and his employees. Ted always used to say: “the best is yet to come”. Today, that’s not true anymore.”
Rogers took on a big risk when it bought Call-Net Enterprises Inc., owner of Sprint Canada, at a time when many pundits had given up competitive local exchange carriers for dead.
David Neale, senior vice-president of products and services at Vancouver-based Telus Consumer Solutions Inc., worked for Rogers Wireless as a vice-president for about 12 years.
“He had astonishing intuition,” Neale said in an interview. “He knew consistently where to go. He was chasing things most people couldn’t see.”
Iain Grant, president of the Montreal-based SeaBoard Group, told the story of a meeting in 1991, when Ted Rogers entered the room.
“It was like talking to a fountain,” he said. “He was full of ideas, full of enthusiasm. We went for a 20 minute meeting and came out two hours later.”
Hopefully, Canada’s next generation will prove Fecan wrong, and the best is still yet to come. But it’s no exaggeration to say Ted Rogers will be a tough act to follow.