Telecom Italia kicks out CEO Amos Genish

In one of the least surprising board room purges ever, Telecom Italia (or TIM for short) has got rid of its CEO Amos Genish.

“TIM’s Board of Directors met today and deliberated by a majority vote to revoke with immediate effect all powers conferred to Director Amos Genish, giving mandate to the Chairman to resolve further obligations in relation to the existing working relationship with Genish,” said a TIM announcement today.

“In accordance with the succession plan for Executive Directors adopted by TIM, the proxies revoked to Director Amos Genish were provisionally assigned to the Chairman of the Board. The Chairman of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee has called for a meeting of the latter, in compliance with its responsibility in identifying the new CEO.

“A new meeting of the Board of Directors to appoint a new CEO was convened for November 18. The Board of Directors thanks Amos Genish for the work done in the interest of the Company and all its stakeholders in these fourteen months of intense activity.”

The removal of Genish had seemed inevitable since investor group Elliott won a battle with French conglomerate Vivendi, for control of the TIM board room, back in May of this year. Genish had previously been installed as CEO while Vivendi was still calling the shots, but after winning control Elliott made all the right noises about Genish having their full confidence.

This always seemed somewhat tenuous, with Genish’s loyalties presumably under suspicion and him providing at the very least a convenient scapegoat as and when things took a bad turn at the company. That came to pass last week when TIM said it was writing down the value of its assets by €2 billion and exacerbated by a disagreement between Genish and the board over what to do about TIM’s fixed line network.

Rumours emerged early this week that Genish’s days were numbered and that the board was about to convene a special meeting to agree on his demise. Hilariously TIM issued statements to the press denying such a thing was going to happen just a day or two before it did. TIM has a rich history of deceptive press communications but this outright lie was shameless even by its standards.

“This is a shock,” Analyst Paolo Pescatore of Midia Research told Telecoms.com. “However, ongoing turmoil at the company continues to drag it down. The company is very well placed given its assets and early move to secure a leadership position in 5G. Further tussles will hand its fierce rivals a competitive edge.”

So what next? Elliott apparently has less than a week to come up with an alternative CEO that will do its bidding and the remaining Vivendi board members will presumably oppose whoever they put forward. Above everything else, however, this is another opportunity to finally appoint a CEO whose first name is Tim. Surely everyone can agree on the importance of that.

The rumours were true – Philip Jansen will be the next BT boss

A week after the news was widely leaked, BT has confirmed that its next Chief Exec will be current Worldpay boss Philip Jansen.

Various factors made the move seem plausible, including the fact that Jansen had already resigned from Worldpay and the conspicuous lack of any other viable candidates revealing themselves in the months since the search to replace Gavin Patterson commenced.

Jansen has plenty of top-table pedigree, having been the main man at Worldpay for five years, during which he took the company public and then oversaw its merger with Vantiv at the start of this year. Both moves presumably didn’t do his bank balance any harm, which does call into question his motivation for taking on such a tricky job, but these CEO types just can’t help themselves, can they?

“I’m honoured to be appointed as the next Chief Executive of BT Group,” said Jansen. “BT is a special company with a wonderful history and a very exciting future. It has built a leading position across fixed and mobile networks, creating an opportunity to deliver increasing benefits for our customers, the UK economy and our shareholders.

“In a competitive market we will need to be absolutely focused on our customers’ needs and pursue the right technology investments to help grow the business. I’m excited to get to know all the people at BT and work together to take the business forward.”

“The Board is delighted to have appointed Philip as our new Chief Executive,” said BT Chairman Jan du Plessis. “He is a proven leader with outstanding experience in managing large complex businesses. Philip’s strong leadership has inspired his teams, successfully transformed businesses across multiple industries and created significant value for shareholders. His most recent success at Worldpay, a technology-led business, means he is well suited to build on the solid foundations that are in place at BT. I look forward to working with him to position BT at the heart of the UK’s digital economy.”

Jansen will join BT at the start of next year and will spend a month shadowing Patterson to make sure he knows the ropes before the latter retreats to the life of leisure it’s tempting to assume he’s already made a head-start on. The starting salary for BT CEO is £1.1 million plus a portfolio of benefits breathtaking in its opulence, including nearly $1 million in BT shares to compensate him for whatever Worldpay options he’s no longer able to cash in.

Worldpay is an electronic payments company so Jansen will have some adjusting to do at BT, but he was MD of Telewest a while back so all the telecomsy stuff will presumably come flooding back before long. Just bang on about 5G and fibre mate – it’s easy. The Openreach problem seems to be largely resolved but there will still be plenty of Ofcom fun to be had and it will be interesting to see how his style contrasts with Patterson’s.

BT rumoured to offer top job to Worldpay CEO

Following the exit of Baywatch lookalike Gavin Patterson, everyone has had a go at guessing who will be the next BT CEO. The wait may well be over with BT reportedly offering the job to Philip Jansen.

According to Bloomberg, BT have been in private discussions with Jansen for some time now, with the rumours of his ascension emerging in September. People familiar with the matter suggest an offer has been made, with BT potentially making the official announcement on November 1, alongside its financial results for Q3.

Irrelevant as to whether the rumours prove true, the new boss will have a tough job turning around a business which has faced several scandals over the last 12 months, profit warnings and a turbulent relationship with UK telco watchdog Ofcom. The team also need to fix a heavy pension deficit, while also finding additional funds to ensure both its broadband and mobile networks remain competitive. Over the last three years, share price has dropped roughly 59%, with it currently being the lowest for six years. Jansen might be heading into one of the toughest jobs in telco.

Adding to the rumours of the Jansen discussions is his resignation from Worldpay which was announced last month. Jansen will remain in the role until the end of the year, though the stars do seem to align.

While there have been several names thrown around, Jansen does make a compelling case. During his tenure, Jansen oversaw the $10.4 billion acquisition and merger of Worldpay rival Vantiv, adding a few interesting bullet points to his CV. With the EE purchase still to pay dividends, perhaps a fresh set of eyes, with experience in significant M&A is an attractive idea.

MegaFon CEO calls it a day, again

The boss of Russia’s second-largest MNO has decided to hand over the reins once more, having previously done so six years ago.

Sergey Soldatenkov started his current tenure as CEO of MegaFon in 2016 after Ivan Tavrin resigned in order to pursue other interests. This marked the reversal of the move four year earlier in which Tavarin stepped in as CEO, with Soldatenkov moving up to the Chairman position. The fact that he had to move back into the CEO office suggests Tavarin’s departure may have been somewhat sudden.

Soldatenkov’s second tenure as CEO was expected to last three years but that too has been cut short with MegaFon Executive Director Gevork Vermishian stepping up to the plate. There is no mention of Soldatenkov returning to the Chairman role so it looks like he’s just decided to call it a day at MegaFon.

“I have decided that the time has come to hand the reins to Gevork,” said Soldatenkov. “I have been involved with the company since its creation, almost 20 years ago. Throughout this time we have been at the forefront of innovation.

“However, we have been conscious for a long time of the need for a management succession plan. With this in mind, we asked Gevork to take on the role of Executive Director last October, with a view to having me focus on strategy and government relations and having Gevork take on operational issues. In this way it was possible to gradually transition responsibilities to Gevork, and I believe that he is now ready to take over my responsibilities as well and assume full control of the management of the Company.

“I want to thank Sergey Vladimirovich for his huge contribution to the company over the years,” said Ivan Streshinsky, CEO of holding company USM Management. “He is a unique person – he has spent his entire career in telecoms, and as a result he understands the sector better than anyone else. Our decision in 2016 to ask him to return to the position of CEO clearly paid off handsomely.”

MegaFon has 29% of Russian mobile subscribers according to Ovum’s WCIS, just behind MTS with 30% or so.

Europe approves merger of Tele2 and Com Hem, Kirkby will move to TDC

The merger of Swedish MNO Tele2 with Swedish cableco Com Hem has been approved but Tele2’s CEO Allison Kirkby isn’t hanging around.

Europe had a look at the merger, as it invariably does with any telecoms M&A on the continent, and concluded it raises no competition concerns. The resulting creation of a multiplay operator doesn’t take any players out of either the mobile or fixed markets and therefore there’s still enough competition to allow the EC to sleep soundly at night. It has also concluded a general investigation into the Swedish telecoms market with not further action required.

“We are nearing the closing of this merger and my ambition to create a leading integrated connectivity provider in the Baltic Sea region will soon be realized,” said Kirkby. “I am immensely proud of the Tele2 team’s efforts throughout this process, as well as our incredible achievements the past years.”

“I will leave a Tele2 that is stronger and better positioned to act as an integrated customer champion in an ever more digitalized world. Once the merger is closed, I feel confident that the Tele2 team, including its new colleagues from Com Hem, will continue to challenge the status quo and fearlessly liberate people to live a more connected life.”

Scandinavia seems to have left a strong impression on Kirkby, who has been poached by Danish telco TDC Group to be its new CEO. Right now TDC seems only to have made the announcement via a Danish press release, but we trust Google Translate enough to run with it. Kirkby will start her new gig in December, right after the merger closes.

The CEO of the merged company, which looks like it will be called Tele2, will be the current CEO of Com Hem, Anders Nilsson. “As one company, we will be able to offer a portfolio of truly integrated services, with significant benefits for Swedish individuals, households, businesses and our shareholders as a result,” he said.

“My main focus now is our preparations for a rapid and efficient integration, to the benefit of both our employees and customers. Together with the new Leadership Team, I will also make sure to draw from the strength, knowledge and spirit of both the Tele2 and Com Hem organizations, as well as the Tele2 Board of Directors. When closing comes, we will be ready to kick off the integration.”

The only other thing worth noting is that Kirkby had been one of the people thought likely to be in the running for the BT CEO job. The search continues.

Ronan Dunne said to be in the running for the BT CEO gig

Current Verizon exec and former O2 UK boss Ronan Dunne is reported to be one of the people BT is considering to replace Gavin Patterson.

The rumour comes courtesy of the Telegraph, which has sources that claim Dunne was recently over here to speak to BT about the opportunity. That’s about it as far as the Telegraph story goes – no comment from either Dunne or BT and it could just be blind speculation. But it is also plausible as Dunne has a lot of relevant experience and could be keen on the opportunity having missed out on the top job at Verizon and an apparent sense of unfinished business in the UK.

Current BT CEO Gavin Patterson decided to throw in the towel earlier this year following a bunch of negative events afflicting BT under his tenure. It looks like a pretty exasperating gig, not least due to the tightrope the former state monopoly has to walk with regulators. Dunne’s move to Verizon seemed to be prompted by his own negative regulatory experiences following the blocking of O2’s merger with Three UK, but maybe a couple of years away has renewed his appetite for the fight.

Among the other frontrunners for the top job at BT are current consumer boss Marc Allera and various other BT senior execs as well as anyone else a headhunter might find when the Goole ‘UK telecoms CEO’. Informa’s Stephen Carter has apparently distanced himself from the position without entirely ruling it out and they could just stick the head of another utility in if they wanted to play safe.

Informa CEO doesn’t seem to fancy the BT job

It has been reported that Informa CEO Stephen Carter has been approached by BT as part of its search to replace CEO Gavin Patterson.

Sky News got the scoop, reporting Carter ‎’has been sounded out in the last few weeks about the post.’ Carter hasn’t publicly commented on the matter but apparently one of his unnamed friends has, confirming the approach but stressing he is not a candidate for the BT CEO gig, nor is he any part of the recruitment process.

It seems more likely that a headhunter has been ringing around senior telecoms execs to gauge their interest in running BT and Carter was on their list. Somehow this process came to the attention of Sky News and here we are. Intriguingly Carter’s mystery mate, who we believe accurately represents his position, indicated to Sky that Carter could yet be persuaded to shift his current position on the vacancy.

Carter was always likely to be on any headhunter’s shortlist, as Telecoms.com and Light Reading (both of which are owned by Informa) have speculated previously. He has a strong telecoms background including NTL and Alcatel Lucent, as being the founding CEO of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom. But thanks to a recent M&A spending spree, including the £3.9 billion acquisition of UBM, there seems to be plenty to hold Carter’s attention at Informa right now.

The smart money is on EE boss Marc Allera to move up to the BT CEO role. The acquisition of EE at the start of 2016 has served to illustrate how behind the times the core BT business is. Allera has shown he gets the modern consumer telecoms game and is already part of the mix so he would seem to be the safe choice. Besides, apparent shopaholic Carter is unlikely to be interested in a company that has already blown its M&A budget for the next few years.

Liberty Global poaches Tivo CEO Enrique Rodriguez to be CTO

Enrique Rodriguez, who only joined DVR company Tivo as CEO last November, has been poached by Liberty Global to be its CTO.

“Enrique is a seasoned executive who will hit the ground running on day one,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “In today’s technology environment the best CTOs have worked across sectors, platforms and geographies. Enrique has C-level experience as an engineer, software developer and operator.

“He has managed multi-billion dollar businesses for companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Cisco and Thomson, and has a long history in digital television as well as the European broadband sector. As head of Microsoft’s Connected TV business, he launched IPTV solutions for telecommunication companies around the world, including many of our competitors. More recently, at AT&T, he was responsible for the teams that developed and launched DIRECTV’s successful OTT service, DIRECTV Now.

“I’m particularly excited to tap into Enrique’s knowledge of video products and platforms as we ramp up innovation in our TV business. He’s the right leader at the right time for Liberty Global.”

“This is an exciting time to join Liberty Global,” said Rodriguez. “It is one of the few companies in our sector with international scale, a long-term commitment to technology leadership, and a track record of consistent growth and value creation. Mike and his team are first class operators and I look forward to accelerating product innovation and building the network capacity that European consumers want and demand.”

Analyst Paolo Pescatore reckons this is a good move for Liberty. “Beyond the wealth of experience he brings to Liberty Global he will be able to help the group launch new services,” he said. “He joins at a time when the company is struggling to be truly successful in convergence. With this in mind, Liberty is placing a lot of focus on efficiency and is seeking to make better use of data by investing in software and the cloud. Unsurprising expect a particular focus on TV and the integration of online video services within the new TV platform.”

Rodriguez certainly seems to have good tech credentials, having worked at DIRECTV, radio streaming company Sirius XM, Cisco’s service provider video technology group and the TV and Xbox bits of Microsoft. Consumer entertainment tech is clearly his thing and it heralds some promising innovation from Liberty Global in future.

ZTE celebrates temporary reprieve by replacing President and senior management team

The cleaning of the ZTE Augean stables continues apace with the replacement of its President, CFO and EVPs.

Having been appointed at the start of this week, ZTE’s eight-person board wasted little time in getting rid of President Zhao Xianming, CFO Shao Weilin and Executive VPs Xu Huijun, Zhang Zhenhui, Pang Shengqing, and Xiong Hui. They were immediately replaced by Xu Ziyang, Li Ying, Wang Xiyu, and Gu Junying.

Here’s the statement offered up by the independent non-exec directors: “The senior management appointed hereby meet the qualifications for appointment as senior management of listed companies stipulated under pertinent laws and regulations, including the Company Law and the Articles of Association.

“The procedure for the appointment and removal of senior management has been in compliance with relevant provisions of the Company Law and the Articles of Association and the interests of the Company and other shareholders have not been compromised. We concur with the decision on the appointment and removal of senior management of the Company.”

New President Xu Ziyang has been with ZTE since 1998. Until 2011 he was involved in R&D and product management on the core network side of things. He then got some GM roles in the US and Germany. Since 2016, Xu has been both assistant to the President and Product General Manager of the CCN core network product line.

New CFO Li Ying joined ZTE in 2002 and has had a variety of finance-related roles, culminating in taking on the role of Acting Head of the Finance Management department since the start of this year. New EVP (and possibly CTO) Wang Xiyu has been at ZTE since 1998 and has been deputy CTO since 2016. Gu Junying is a new hire that seems to have been brought in to head up the HR side of things.

So ZTE has now completely replaced its board and senior leadership. Along with all the other things like fines and remedial measures it’s hard to imagine what else it could do to appease US regulators and politicians short of personally shining their shoes. The scene seems to be set for a full reprieve and it’s reasonable to expect an update from the US in the next month.