Reviewed – High Wire Act: Ted Rogers, by Caroline Van Hasselt

Where to start in reviewing this 520-page tome?

WHAT a book.

This book is not just a biography on Canadian media / technology owner and magnate, Ted Rogers, although that’s what I bought it for.

It is much, much more than a biography, providing detailed insights into the personality and drive of Rogers, whose name adorns cable, sports, wireless and many other businesses in Canada.

As well as the personal history of Rogers, the book goes into at times excruciating detail into junk bonds, mergers, acquisitions, FCC, Canadian banks, American banks, debt, shares, cable rollouts and failed partnerships. It’s long form business journalism in a book, written well and clearly with much thought into the content and research.

This is not a book for a wind-down read at evening, though it goes at a decent pace. Along the way it felt at time it was an off campus MBA, with the focus on the business machinations. Then again, Rogers is a business man and his business is making money. There is a level of awareness of these issues and as someone who’s not lived in Canada and does not have a triple degree in Wall Street and Toronto’s Bay Street, for me, some of the detail overrode the overall narrative. That said, I’m also aware of my preference for narrative and analysis in biographies, so that comment is not solely directed at this book.

The book is a fascinating lesson in how technology has changed so dramatically – from radio, TV, cable, wireless and then the Internet. Rogers (and his father – the guy didn’t enter the world dirt poor, it must be said) have been at the forefront of these changes in North America and this book is a great insight into the business of technology and also a glimpse into Canadian politics, business and cultural issues.

It took me some months coming back at times to read this; you need to be in the right frame of mind to digest the detail that intersperses the drive, and at times it seems, brutal business practices of Ted Rogers. Pragmatic, driven and determined. Never ceasing. Controlling. But, it’s his name, his company and the book doesn’t set out to be a lesson in virtuous leadership principles.

This is a good book. It’s a long book, and a detailed one, but one I came out better for having taken the time to read it.

There are lessons to learn about leadership styles and the change of technology and the word ‘convergence’ kept – and keeps – popping up in my mind.

It’s likely I’ll come back to it and read this again in the future ,and probably gleam more from it a second time as I consider some of the issues knowing what they’ll be.

Well recommended.