News / Canada

Pierre Karl Peladeau returns as president and CEO at Quebecor

After a brief stint in provincial politics, Peladeau is returning to the seat he was born into.

Former Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau is returning to his job as the president and chief executive of Quebecor Inc., the media and telecom company founded by his family.

The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson

Former Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau is returning to his job as the president and chief executive of Quebecor Inc., the media and telecom company founded by his family.

MONTREAL — Following an eventful if brief foray into the political arena, Pierre Karl Peladeau is returning to his job as president and CEO of Quebecor, but the company he is coming back to is very different from the one he left.

Peladeau, whose family founded the company (TSX:QBR.B), stepped down from the top job in 2013.

"The corporation is dear to my heart," Peladeau, 55, said Thursday in a statement announcing his return. "It is in sound financial health and has grown steadily in recent years."

Peladeau, whose return is effective immediately, had served as president and CEO of Quebecor for 14 years before entering politics.

The eccentric media mogul ran for the Parti Quebecois in the 2014 provincial election and in 2015 was elected PQ leader, where he was regarded in some quarters as a potential hero for the separatist movement.

But his political career was short-lived and occasionally marked by controversy. He steadfastly refused to sell his controlling shares in Quebecor despite constant haranguing by opponents. Amid turmoil in his personal life, he resigned from politics last year.

In January 2016, he separated from his wife, actress and producer Julie Snyder, after a short marriage following years together.

Quebecor is one of Canada's largest media and telecommunications firms, but it's business has changed remarkably in the four years Peladeau has been gone.

The company has grown its wireless business, adding hundreds of thousands of new mobile phone customers since 2013.

However, the company faces challenges as it loses cable subscribers and its media division faces lower advertising revenues, said Michel Nadeau, a former top leader at Quebec pension fund manager La Caisse de depot, which owns almost 19 per cent of Quebecor Media.

"He will have to find new solutions for the media and the telecommuncations industry problems," he said.

The strong cash flow from the Videotron cable and wireless operations gives Peladeau time to craft a response, but Nadeau said Quebecor will have to make some changes because its investment in traditional media is just breaking even.

The company has already sold Sun Media's English-language operations — including the Sun chain of daily newspapers — to Postmedia Network Canada and shut down Sun News Network, the company's news channel, after it failed to find a buyer for the TV station.

TVA Group, a subsidiary of Quebecor Media, discontinued its Argent business channel last year.

National Bank Financial analyst Adam Shine said Peladeau's return shouldn't come as a surprise and he doesn't expect any material change at the company with his arrival.

"We'll watch for executive turnover, but none is truly expected," Shine wrote in a note to clients.

Quebecor owns an 81 per cent stake in Quebecor Media, which holds the Videotron cable and telecommunications company and TVA Group broadcaster as well as various other media businesses including Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec.

Peladeau's family controls the company through its class A multiple-voting shares.

As a result of Peladeau's return, Pierre Dion, who has been Quebecor CEO since April 2014, has been appointed chairman of Quebecor Media and a director of Quebecor. He will also be nominated for a director's seat at TVA Group, which includes Quebec's largest private sector TV network.

Brian Mulroney will remain chairman at Quebecor. The former prime minister offers Bay Street reassuarance that "Quebecor is not just a bunch of separatists," Nadeau said.

He said Peladeau's return should be welcomed by Quebecor shareholders because he owns such a large stake in the company.

"We're comfortable with the decision of the board and Pierre Karl Peladeau has all our support," said Caisse de depot spokesman Maxime Chagnon.

Quebecor's class B subordinate-voting shares closed down 63 cents at $38.41 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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