Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI.A.T, RCI.B.T, RCI) said Thursday it tapped Vodafone UK Chief Executive Guy Laurence to take over as chief executive.
Toronto-based Rogers said 51-year-old Mr. Laurence, who joined Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN, VOD) in 2000 and has led its U.K. arm since 2008, has 30 years of experience in telecommunications, pay television and media.
He will take over in early December from departing Chief Executive Nadir Mohamed, who announced his retirement in February. Mr. Laurence's move to Rogers comes as Verizon Communications Inc. (>> Verizon Communications Inc.), the big U.S. telecommunications company, is in the process of acquiring Vodafone Group's stake in their Verizon Wireless joint venture for $130 billion.
Rogers offers mobile-phone, cable-television and Internet services and also oversees a media division comprising publishing, television and radio assets. The wireless business is considered its most important. With 9.4 million subscribers, it is Canada's biggest wireless carrier, and because of consumers' and businesses' increasing reliance on mobile devices, the unit is crucial to Rogers' growth prospects.
As head of Vodafone's U.K. business, Mr. Laurence brings extensive experience overseeing large mobile-phone operations in a market that is considered one of the most competitive globally. At the end of June, Vodafone had 19.2 million wireless subscribers, more than double Rogers' customer base.
Mr. Laurence's lack of direct work experience in the Canadian telecom market could be a potential shortcoming, some analysts said.
Rogers is confident in his abilities.
"He brings a breadth and depth of experience in telecom, entertainment and media that is truly unique, [and] he was the unanimous choice of the board," John Tory, a member of Rogers's board and its search committee, said in an email.
Mr. Laurence couldn't immediately be reached.
The appointment comes as Rogers and Canada's other incumbent phone companies--BCE Inc. (BCE.T, BCE) and Telus Corp. (T.T, TU)--are embroiled in a battle with the federal government over rules governing the entrance of foreign carriers into Canada's wireless space. The Canadian government wants a strong fourth national wireless carrier to challenge the country's dominant three, to bring down voice and data prices and foster development of new mobile offerings. The incumbents worry existing rules may allow some of the biggest North American operators to enter Canada with an unfair advantage over domestic wireless providers.
Earlier this year, Verizon suggested it was considering a move into Canada. Verizon's entry would have posed a real threat since its wireless subscriber base dwarfs the combined size of Canada's big three operators. Verizon has since said it is no longer interested in entering Canada, but the incumbents still worry another major player may try.
-Judy McKinnon contributed to this article.
Write to Ben Dummett at email@example.com