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The departure of Laurence Cooke, who was hired to head Shaw's crucial next step in the Canadian telecommunications industry's fastest growth area, is the latest sign of turmoil at the Western Canadian telecom giant. Cooke declined immediate comment when reached on the phone on Thursday. Assistants to executives at Shaw said they were unavailable to comment, as the executives were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Shaw has been battling rival Telus Corp.'s foray into its core TV business and attempting to build out a wireless network, all while the company tries to handle the $2-billion acquisition of CanWest Global's television assets and deal with significant change in the executive suite.
Cooke, who held the position of vice-president of wireless and previously held a senior position at BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility, was hired by an executive team led by former president and vice-chairman Jim Shaw, who handed control to his brother Brad Shaw in November.
That transition between top managers took place under the watch of the brothers' father, JR Shaw, who is the company's chairman. It came earlier than previously planned after a bizarre lunch with investors in Vancouver, where several people who were present told The Globe and Mail that Jim Shaw appeared to be inebriated and was insulting to many of those who attended.
Shaw's wireless venture had a planned launch of late 2011, and has a registered launch date with an international wireless association for September. However, some industry watchers said a launch date that early could be unrealistic, given the focus that has been given to the large CanWest acquisition and a lack of investment in wireless.
Quebecor Inc.'s Vidéotron Ltée, the Montreal-based cable company that launched a wireless network in September, 2010, had invested significantly more capital in its network, Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose wrote in a note to clients Thursday, while also having some infrastructure in place for reselling wireless service on another company's network for several years.