Canada loses a tech legend

Ted Rogers’ status as man ahead of his time was cemented by thetributes from former employees, competitors and analysts we receivedthe day after he died.

Rogers,who died at the age of 75 at his Toronto home Monday night,is proof that success in technology requires audacity and risk-taking.He started laying coax cable at a time when most urban couch potatoescould get their favourite channels with an antenna. During the early1980s, he sunk a fortune into building Cantel as a separate entity. Atthe time, Cantel and Bell Mobility were commonly referred to as “carphone” companies and perceived as niche players offering high-endservices.

In addition to wireless and cable, Rogers’ group ofcompanies also publishes magazines and operates five television and 53radio stations.

Canwest Global Communications Corp. competeswith Rogers in broadcasting and publishing. In a press release, Canwestpresident Leonard Asper said: “Ted Rogers will be remembered by us allnot only as a competitor who played fairly but more importantly as areliable business partner and personal friend.”

Asper alsodescribed him as the executive who “almost single-handedly positionedRogers as a leader in the wireless and broadband age.”

IvanFecan, president of CTV Globemedia Inc., described Rogers as “both awonderful partner and very tough competitor. But at all times, he was agentleman and his word was his bond. Our thoughts go out to his familyand his employees. Ted always used to say: “the best is yet to come”.Today, that’s not true anymore.”

More recently, Rogerstook on a big risk when it bought Call-Net Enterprises a time when many pundits had given up competitive local exchangecarriers for dead.

David Neale, senior vice-president ofproducts and services at Telus consumer solutions Inc., worked forRogers Wireless as a vice-president for about 12 years.

“He hadastonishing intuition,” Neale said in an interview. “He knewconsistently where to go. He was chasing things most people couldn’tsee.”

Iain Grant, president of the SeaBoard Group, told Network World Canada of a meeting in 1991, when Ted Rogers entered the room.

“Itwas like talking to a fountain,” he said. “He was full of ideas, fullof enthusiasm. We went for a 20 minute meeting and came out two hourslater.”

Hopefully, Canada’s next generation will prove Fecanwrong, and the best is still yet to come. But it’s no exaggeration tosay Ted Rogers will be a tough act to follow.

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