UNB Alumni
Telling our #ProudlyUNB stories

The UNB graduate inside one of the biggest deals in Canadian corporate history

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Oct 13, 2023

Category: Management , UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories

Mergers and acquisitions are exciting to read about –especially when they involve two of the largest entrepreneurial companies in Canadian history: Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications.

In April 2023, after over two years of intense negotiations, a regulatory battle, fierce public opinion, and, finally, government approval, the $26 billion transaction that created one national cable, media and wireless company under the Rogers banner was completed.

Whatever opinion you held about the deal, it was fascinating for Canadians to watch. But what we didn’t see was the incredible amount of work that went on behind the scenes.

One of the people doing that work was UNB alum Feiber Omana (BBA’06).

During his nearly decade-long tenure with Shaw – including as senior vice president, corporate development and strategic planning – Feiber led the execution of mergers and acquisitions including spectrum licences, the enterprise strategic planning process and capital market activities for the telecom giant.

“It was certainly exciting to work on the third largest deal in Canadian history –and the largest in the telecom sector. Getting the deal over the finish line was not easy, yet the robust regulatory and financing covenants, including a sizeable break fee, on the part of the purchaser allowed us to get through some otherwise sleepless nights and remain focused on delivering the ~70% premium for Shaw shareholders. I was also quite fortunate to be entrusted with leading the Shaw Integration Management Office, which was a formidable challenge on its own, yet made much more complex due to not being able to freely share information while the regulatory process was ongoing.”

Feiber was no stranger to hard work, even before the merger. Starting out as an international student in UNB’s business program, he worked two jobs, volunteered on campus, and maintained high grades to keep his scholarships. In fact, while at UNB, he garnered the highest university-wide first-year GPA and went on to graduate with a perfect GPA as the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medalist.

“It was very tough,” he remembers, “but I had a simple motto – if I think about it, I will lose. In the thick of things, I don’t think about how hard it is, because that makes it worse. I just completely focus on getting it done. As long as that mentality is not stretched over too long a time period – where burnout is a risk – that works for me.”

Feiber first experienced life in New Brunswick as a grade 12 exchange student from Colombia attending Fredericton High School. He returned home and started studying industrial engineering but quickly realized that it wasn’t for him, and applied for the loans and scholarships he needed to get back to Fredericton. “I really liked the city and its friendly, tight-knit community vibe. Several individuals at UNB and in the broader community, such as the Diamonds, Dables, Clowaters, Myles, Sharmas and Tahans, were instrumental to my success.”

Another of those people was Irene Leckie, one of the original founders of UNB’s nursing program and an active community member. “I received the Sany Leckie Memorial Bursary while I was at UNB, and Irene would take me to lunch a couple of times a year. She was an amazing human being and helped me to further develop a social conscience, which has been key for me in business. I’ve always tried to carry that through my career.”

Another mentor of Feiber’s was Glenn Cleland, the founding director of the Centre for Financial Studies at UNB as well as the Student Investment Fund. “The SIF program was the highlight of my undergraduate experience and I learned a lot through hands-on investing, including a dose of humbleness after having some of the worst stock returns in the class! Glenn became a mentor beyond my days on campus, helping me get into Harvard Business School, and even helping me get a decent suit for the interview! He and his wife Susan Boyce introduced me to Dick Currie, chancellor of UNB, whose vote of confidence in the strength of my application was crucial to getting into Harvard along with the support from John K.F. Irving and his involvement the John H. McArthur Canadian Fellowship program for Canadian students.”

Feiber spent two years on campus at Harvard Business School and went on to graduate with the highest distinction as a Baker Scholar. During his MBA internship, he worked on Wall Street at Rothschild, mostly doing restructuring work during the global financial crisis. But he and his wife Catalina Cote (BBA’ 06) were keen on moving back to Canada, so in 2010, he joined Goldman Sachs in Toronto. “My four years there were a tremendous learning opportunity and equipped me with the remaining requisite tools to move on from merely advising clients to living with the consequences – good or bad – after closing of a transaction.”

That's exactly what he did when he moved to Shaw. 

“Despite being a vice president at Goldman Sachs, I started at Shaw in Calgary as a director of corporate development and treasury which some could view as an unsurmountable step-down in title, but I was confident in the strength of the company and in my ability to grow in the role. Also, and very importantly, I saw the opportunity to work with an amazing leadership team including, my direct manager, Trevor English and Brad Shaw, the CEO. They gave me opportunities to showcase what I could do, and I did not let them down. As a result, I experienced rapid career progression to the senior vice president ranks.”

Once again, great mentorship and sponsorship at Shaw played a key role in his career. “Frankly, I often found myself in situations where I lacked prior experience, yet I knew that if I put in the sweat then I could somehow figure them out. I never said no to a new challenge, and embraced them with an open mind, team-based approach, and can-do attitude.”

While most of the recent focus has been on the blockbuster sale to Rogers, Shaw had undergone a significant multi-year transformation prior to that. “We were one of largest companies in Canada, yet we completed several deals representing more than 50% of our market cap, which earned us several national deal awards. We realized that we needed to focus on connectivity to ensure long-term viability so Shaw got into the wireless business by acquiring WIND Mobile and made significant additional investments, largely funded by the sale of Shaw Media and ViaWest. We also reinvented our operating model, thus driving massive savings throughout the entire company. It was a period of significant change and restructuring, which taught me that by treating people fairly they reciprocate in spades. Despite the tremendous efforts and gained operational efficiencies over several years, it ultimately became clear that the wireless business was all about scale and the family made the right decision to enter into the transaction with Rogers.”

Now post-deal, Feiber is on a well-deserved sabbatical period. “I closed a chapter in my life and really wanted to take the time to recharge my batteries.” Since the deal closed, he has caught up on reading, gone on various trips with his family, and become involved with a cleantech startup.  He also continues to support programs and scholarships at UNB and serve on the Advisory Board for UNB’s Faculty of Management and Centre for Financial Studies.

And, he’s returning to campus this Fall. “I’m very excited to get back to campus and share my experience with the students who will become the next generation of business leaders.”

One of the biggest lessons he is sharing with UNB students is the importance of finding mentors and sponsors throughout your career. “I was lucky to find mentors and people who sponsored me right from the beginning at UNB. I realized how important that was and made sure to make decisions in my career that aligned with finding strong leaders and mentors of utmost integrity, whether it was Trevor English at Shaw or my very first boss at Peters & Co. in Calgary, Mike Tims. You have to be willing to make certain trade-offs to go where you’ll have a strong sponsor. The holy grail is finding someone who gives you rope and credit but still helps along the way. It takes a very secure manager to do that.”

At this point in his life, at age 40 with an already full CV and a family that includes his wife and two children, Feiber is taking on the role of mentor himself. “It’s wonderful to be able to help people shine. I’m so grateful to those who have done that for me and I look forward to continuing to pay it forward!”