CEO profile: Jim Shaw

Canada’s top 500 CEOs

CEO #50: Jim Shaw

Financial Post Magazine November 04, 2008

Ask Jim Shaw how it felt to stand up to the CRTC, and he jokes that he’s not sure what exact incident you’re referring to. “You’ll have to be more specific.” Indeed, the CEO of Calgary-based Shaw Communications has had his hands full for the last three years, growing the company’s base of cable and digital phone customers while locking horns with the CRTC over issues such as the Canadian Television Fund and the “fee for carriage” proposal. The faceoff reached a climax in August when the CRTC renewed Shaw’s broadcast licence for two years instead of the standard seven, citing a list of violations, such as not providing proper notice when changing channel numbers on the dial. Not that Jim Shaw is worried. “You’re allowed to have a viewpoint, aren’t ya?” he says.

Shaw’s antics haven’t turned off investors. “The company makes strategic decisions without taking big risks, always with an eye to return cash to shareholders,” says CIBC World Markets analyst Robert Bek. Shaw Communications leads the North American cable industry in dividend yield and its three-year share-price return (77.3%) trounces that of rival Telus Corp. (9.3%), but it still lags behind industry giant Rogers Communications Inc. (102.2%).

Shaw Communications is now expanding further into its rivals’ turf, with its successful bid for 19 licences in western Canada at this summer’s frenzied Advanced Wireless Spectrum. Shaw is mum on his wireless strategy for now, but his plans aren’t hard to guess: Jump back to 2004, when he started undercutting Telus’s home phone service in western Canada. By adding wireless to the company’s mix of Internet and cable services, Shaw will keep giving Canada’s “Big Three” telecommunications companies a stubborn competitor they’d be best to keep their eyes on.

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