Rogers’ family feud spotlights dual-class share structures
A kind of company fairness construction utilized by a number of of Canada’s most outstanding corporations is as soon as once more underneath hearth from critics in mild of the present chaos at Rogers Communications Inc.
Twin-class share constructions — the place corporations subject completely different courses of frequent shares, every with their very own stage of voting and management rights — are utilized by corporations like Shaw Communications Inc., Fairfax Monetary Holdings Ltd., Bombardier Inc., Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. and others. Sometimes, they provide disproportionate voting rights to 1 group of shareholders reminiscent of the corporate’s founders, members of the family and executives.
Rogers Communications — which is embroiled in a bitter battle for management of the corporate this week — can also be a dual-class share construction. At Rogers, the household belief owns 97 per cent of the category A voting shares and 9.89 per cent of sophistication B shares, which pay dividends however wouldn’t have voting rights. Members of the family additionally take up a disproportionate share of board seats.
This sort of construction may be problematic, stated Glenn Rowe, a professor on the College of Western Ontario’s Ivey College of Enterprise, in that it creates an “inferior class of shareholders” and lack of accountability across the board desk.
“You will get entrenched boards, as a result of the board is elected by the controlling shareholder, and there might be fewer checks and balances,” Rowe stated. “There are disadvantages, and we’re seeing a few of these disadvantages play out within the Rogers saga.”
Enterprise business observers and analysts predict problem forward for the communications big, as two events battle for management of Rogers. Ousted board chair Edward Rogers claimed he was re-elected chair on Sunday, and is backed by a brand new hand-picked board.
Rogers household feud: Struggle to manage telecom big will get messy
His mom, sisters and several other different board members dispute that declare, saying his re-election assembly was illegitimate and that the 5 members who have been changed by Edward Rogers stay on the board.
It’s high-stakes company drama, however Rowe stated whereas the corporate’s dual-class share construction is partly guilty, it’s nonetheless uncommon for an organization to descend to this stage of turmoil.
“Within the time I’ve studied twin class share constructions, there’ve solely actually been two main dust-ups (at dual-class share structured corporations,” he stated. “Magna Worldwide, which was 10 or 11 years in the past, and now Rogers. You possibly can take a look at plenty of dual-class share structured corporations that don’t result in one of these scenario.”
Kevin Thomas, chief govt of SHARE (Shareholder Affiliation for Analysis and Schooling), stated his group doesn’t favour dual-class share constructions as a normal rule. He stated the scenario at Rogers is an instance of what occurs when boards grow to be “entrenched” with a scarcity of accountability.
“Twin-class share constructions don’t work and we ought to be discouraging them as a lot as potential,” Thomas stated.
However Francois Dauphin, president and chief govt of the Institute for Governance of Non-public and Public Organizations, says his group is in favour of dual-class share constructions as a result of they will defend startup or visionary corporations from being pressured by giant, institutional shareholders, who usually solely maintain shares in an organization for a brief time period and are solely fascinated by short-term returns.
“It’s additionally a strategy to defend corporations from hostile takeovers. We’re actually topic to that in Canada, so we have to defend our corporations and household companies,” he stated.
However Dauphin added that dual-class share constructions must have limitations set upon them. He stated he’s an advocate of placing in a sundown clause, the place the dual-class shares disappear when the founding father of the corporate dies or exits the scene.
He additionally stated that the majority dual-class share structured corporations in Canada enable subordinate voters to have a minimum of some voting rights, and that’s the place Rogers has gone improper.
“What we normally see extra usually is that subordinate shareholders could have the proper to elect as much as a 3rd of the board members,” Dauphin stated. “At Rogers, they’ve 50 votes to zero for the subordinate shareholders, so this can be a very distinctive case. This isn’t one thing we’d ever advocate for.”
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