(Adds comments from analyst, former colleague of incoming CEO. Updates share price)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - Canadian telecommunications company Telus Corp shuffled its top ranks on Monday, with Chief Executive Officer Darren Entwistle set to become executive chairman and long-time lieutenant Joe Natale due to replace him.
Analysts were broadly positive about the promotion of Natale, who is currently Telus’ chief commercial officer, though Entwistle is expected to remain active in his new role.
“I think that Natale will be running the show but that Darren very much wants to keep a hand on the tiller, if not on the sails,” said Iain Grant, managing director at SeaBoard Group, a telecom consultancy.
Entwistle has led Vancouver-based Telus for the last 14 years. He is widely lauded for taking a C$6 billion-plus gamble to buy cellular company Clearnet early in his tenure in order to build a wireless service that is now the single-largest revenue generator for Telus.
But he was also known as a hard-driven executive willing to confront policymakers, speaking out forcefully last year against a range of steps Ottawa took to spur more competition in the industry.
“Darren can be more confrontational and goal-directed where Natale is more consensus-oriented. That might bode well for relationships in Ottawa,” said SeaBoard’s Grant.
Nikolas Petridis, a former Telus senior sales manager who worked with Natale, also said his appointment as CEO could help salve the company’s relationship with the federal government.
“Whenever you change the decision-making process, it always gives an opportunity to get back to the table,” he said.
Petridis, now a vice president of wholesale for Fibernetics, said Natale was an approachable executive who worked his way up the chain of command at Telus and had a good balance between his business sense and social abilities.
Dvai Ghose, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, said Telus had indicated that Entwistle would remain in charge of strategy and operations in his new board role, and added that Natale “offers solid continuity and breadth of experience.”
Shares of the company, which has a national wireless network and provides Internet, television and landline services mostly in Western Canada, were down 0.7 percent at C$40.08 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The company said Natale would join its board and continue to be based in Toronto.
The changes came after the retirement of current Telus Chairman Brian Canfield, who is stepping down after almost six decades in the Canadian telecom industry, mostly with Telus.
Dick Auchinleck, who has been on the company’s board for more than a decade, will become lead director of Telus.
All the changes will take effect at the company’s annual meeting on May 8. (Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Lisa Von Ahn, Jeffrey Hodgson and Lisa Shumaker)