* Jerry Reinsdorf, shown here with the World Series trophy his 2005 Chicago White Sox won and hardware won by the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, received a Nov. 5 call from Ed Rogers asking to interview Kenny Williams for a job with the Blue Jays. What job? Paul Beeston’s job.
By Bob Elliott
Ah, we’re not sure if this the way Harvard Business School teaches Forbes 500 companies on how to make upper management changes.
Or either the Stanford Graduate School of Business or the London Business School for that matter.
Yet, here is how Rogers Communications went about the dirty business of replacing Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and trying to hire executive vice-president Kenny Williams from the Chicago White Sox.
You can easily sub Dan Duquette’s name for each mention of Williams.
And you can replace the Baltimore Orioles for when you read the White Sox and see how Rogers Communications handled — or rather bungled — the business of replacing the president of the Blue Jays.
Ed Rogers, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, phoned White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to ask for permission to hire Williams.
“I asked for what position?” Reinsdorf said Friday from Chicago, “Edward said ‘for Paul Beeston’s job.’”
It could be pointed out here that Rogers’ knowledge of the baseball landscape was so deep, he did not know Beeston and Reinsdorf were best friends.
Reinsdorf said he told Rogers he would talk to Williams and call back.
“I called Paul and he was shocked,” Reinsdorf said. A few days later they talked again. Beeston told Reinsdorf he had talked the Rogers people.
So, Reinsdorf decided not to call back Ed Rogers.
Nov. 10, GMs meetings, Phoenix.
Reinsdorf tells Williams that Rogers had phoned and they want to hire him and …
“Kenny was not surprised — he’d already been contacted by an emissary,” said Reinsdorf. “I was annoyed by that for it was clearly tampering.”
Who was that deep-throated caller from Toronto?
Roger Rai, Ed Rogers’ pal from their University of Western Ontario days?
Reinsdorf was unsure who made the call to Williams.
But is was tampering.
The White Sox had not given the Toronto Blue Jays or a phone company permission to interview Williams.
Dec. 5, the Friday before the start of the winter meetings.
Again Ed Rogers phones Reinsdorf asking for permission to interview Williams.
“I told him this was not a very good time to be asking — we’re trying to get the White Sox ready for 2015,” Reinsdorf said.
The White Sox owner said he would not could consider the issue until after the White Sox’s off-season plans were finalized and spoke to Williams.
“It was a matter of timing why I said no to talking about Kenny. I found it absolutely absurd that they would phone the day before the winter meetings began asking to interview.”
Dec. 7, San Diego, executives check into the Manchester Grand Hyatt for the winter meetings.
Reinsdorf tells Williams that Rogers Communications has phoned again.
That afternoon ESPN breaks the news that the Jays are searching for a new president and are interested in both Duquette and Williams.
Dec. 8 winter meetings
Williams tells reporters when asked if he had permission to interview with the Jays …
“Permission was neither denied nor granted. At this given time, it’s not the time as we’re trying to put the White Sox together in the best possible way,” Williams said. “It’s been going on for a little while. They’re obviously in a transitional phase in Toronto now. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. So whatever their plan is, it includes reaching out to people.”
Said Reinsdorf that afternoon outside the Grand Hyatt; “I’m not responding to a request from Edward Rogers a beneficiary. You have to follow baseball procedure: request for permission to interview someone has to be put in writing.”
Looking back Reinsdorf says Rogers Communications was not always telling the truth
“In conversations with Kenny, the Toronto people told Paul Beeston was aware or what was going on … that was untrue,” Reinsdorf said. “Then, they said Paul was staying for 2015 and they wanted to give him a farewell tour.”
Did Rogers Communications tamper with Williams?
“They clearly tampered with Kenny, who is like a son to me,” Reinsdorf said. “But I would never file tampering charges against the Blue Jays — Paul Beeston is my best friend in the game.”
Reinsdorf’s White Sox finish their improvements made by GM Rick Hahn, special assistants to the GM Dave Yoakum and Billy Scherrer, along with their scouts and Williams.
They had a successful off season adding:
Signing left fielder Melky Cabrera to a three-year $42 million US contract.
Adding Yankees free-agent closer David Robertston to a four-year $46 million deal.
Landing free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million contract.
Signing Zach Duke to a three-year $15 million deal.
And — wait for it — signing former Jays failed second baseman Emilio Bonifacio to a one-year $4 million deal.
Rogers Communications has zeroed in on Duquette if we believe everything coming out of Baltimore.
And where there is this much smoke, a brush fire is bound to break out.
Sure O’s owner Peter Angeles said last week he was not letting Duquette go … was it a negotiating tactic?
Who do you like in that stare-down contest?
The tough lawyer Angelos?
Or Ed Rogers?
It’s beyond comprehension.
I know which horse I’d bet on in a negotiation.
When Guy Laurence was hired to replace Nadir Mohamed as Rogers CEO, Laurence made sure than Ed and Melinda Rogers were removed from the day-to-day operations of the company, according to Toronto Life.
Reinsdorf said he understands Ed Rogers and Rai met with New York Yankees president Randy Levine to ask for names for a possible Beeston successor.
I asked Reinsdorf if the next time he needed a new manager would he drive up to Wrigley Field to ask for suggestions. He laughed.
But Rogers Communications went to New York to ask the Yankees for help.
Next time they come up with a new phone idea, will they ask Bell for help?
Or phone TSN for suggestions on producing Sportsnet?
Ah, we think not.
“I really don’t understand how you can do this to Paul Beeston,” said Reinsdorf. “Paul is one of the most well liked individuals in the game. I don’t think you treat an employee with that many years with the same team like that.
“Ed Rogers seemed not to understand how the process worked. ”
Rogers Communications had 28,000 employees working at TV and radio stations and magazines. Many are my friends.
Rogers is Canada’s largest cable TV service provider, digital cable service, broadband Internet, telecom, wireless and home monitoring systems.
Beeston and I have had our battles since 1987.
Sometimes he was wrong, sometimes I fouled up.
But I agree with Reinsdorf: this is no way you treat an intern, who keeps showing up at 10:30 AM when he’s supposed to be there for nine o’clock. Sharp.
And it all could have been solved, ended and put to rest a month ago had Rogers Communications issued a denial … or made a hiring.
Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez was asked about the situation on MLB Network this week. He compared it to his final days as manager of the 2002 Jays under GM J.P. Ricciardi to Beeston’s current in-doubt situation saying in an under-stated fashion: “I’ve been there … it’s not a very pleasant place.”
Rogers Communications pays the checks and spent $137.2 million on their team payroll … eighth highest in baseball.
As a company they are entitled to do whatever they want when it comes to making changes.
But to leave someone hanging in the wind like this?
The Blue Jays winter caravan rolled into the west coast with Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar,Russell Martin, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Beeston attending the Vancouver Canadians luncheon Friday before 600 people at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel.
Beeston recevies a standing ovavtion when Andy Dunn, co-owner of the Canadians, said “no one has done more for baseball in Canada than Beeston.”
Co-owner Jake Kerr spoke as well prasising Beeston and the Jays president received a second standing ovation.
Then, Kerr told the entire lunchoen: “sometimes the second generation is not as gifted as the first.”
MC Rob Fai joked “I assume my Rogers cable will be cut off when I return home.”