Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Ins and outs: executive changes in 2010

By Mary Lennighan, Total Telecom
Friday 31 December 10

Key players in India's telecoms sector hit the headlines in 2010; plus appointments and departures elsewhere in the industry.

2010 was a turbulent year for a number of executives in the global telecoms space, but as the year drew to a close one man was attracting more attention than most. Andimuthu Raja resigned as India's minister for communications and IT in mid-November amidst accusations of corruption relating to the allocation of mobile spectrum in 2008. A large-scale investigation ensued. Raja's home and office were searched by officials and the former minister, who denies any wrong doing, has agreed to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, which is conducting the probe. At the heart of the matter is spectrum awarded to a number of telecoms companies for 2G services in 2008, under Raja's jurisdiction…

2010 was a turbulent year for a number of executives in the global telecoms space, but as the year drew to a close one man was attracting more attention than most.

Andimuthu Raja resigned as India's minister for communications and IT in mid-November amidst accusations of corruption relating to the allocation of mobile spectrum in 2008.

A large-scale investigation ensued. Raja's home and office were searched by officials and the former minister, who denies any wrong doing, has agreed to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, which is conducting the probe. At the heart of the matter is spectrum awarded to a number of telecoms companies for 2G services in 2008, under Raja's jurisdiction, at prices fixed in 2001; a government report estimates that revenues lost by the Treasury as a result potentially amount to $40 billion.

The Public Accounts Committee, made up of lawmakers, will now investigate all mobile spectrum allocations in India since 2001; earlier in December the latest session of parliament in India was brought to a close without passing a single bill due to protests and calls for a cross-party investigation into the telecoms scandal

In the latest development, in late December prime minister Manmohan Singh said he is willing to appear before the committee, insisting he has nothing to hide. But with feelings running high in India, we are likely to hear much more from telecoms execs there in the remaining days of 2010 and into next year.

While Raja and his former colleagues were dominating column inches at the end of 2010, earlier in the year the attention of the Indian telecom press was focused on two different, but equally well-known, names.

India's feuding Ambani brothers found themselves in direct competition when Reliance Industries, headed by Mukesh Ambani, in June agreed to pay more than a billion U.S. dollars for Infotel Broadband Services, which holds mobile broadband spectrum in India.

Infotel's plans to roll out mobile Internet services place it in competition with the country's existing mobile operators, including Reliance Communications, which is controlled by Anil Ambani.

Earlier in the year the Ambani brothers took a tentative step towards ending their long-running feud by bringing to an end a pact signed in 2005 that prevented their respective companies from offering services in competition with one another.

Executive changes at telecoms companies in 2010 were perhaps fewer than we have seen in previous years. Nonetheless, some high-profile names left their jobs and some new faces arrived.

The year had barely begun when BT announced the appointment of Jeff Kelly as the new chief executive of BT Global Services. Kelly replaced Hanif Lalani, who left the U.K. incumbent after 26 years. Almost 12 months later, BT strengthened the Global Services management team by naming four new executives who will report to Kelly. Andy Nicholson, Neil Rogers, Kim McMann and Bas Burger will begin their new roles on 1 January.

In February Kuwait's Zain announced the departure of CEO Saad Al Barrak, who had led the telco in an aggressive acquisition spree since he took the helm in 2002. Former communications minister Nabil Bin Salama replaced Al Barrak. He subsequently oversaw the sale of Zain's African assets to India's Bharti Airtel and the potential sale of the rest of the company to Etisalat.

June brought a changing of the guard at Russia's Vimpelcom: Joint chief executives Boris Nemsic and Alexander Torbakhov left the company just one year into three-year contracts to be replaced by Vimpelcom's former CEO Alexander Izosimov.

China Mobile named executive director Li Yue as its new chief executive in August, replacing Wang Jianzhou. And the following month Japan's KDDI replaced president Tadashi Onodera, who had run the company since 2000. Vice president Takashi Tanaka took the top job from December, while his predecessor continues as chairman.

In October Internet telephony specialist Skype appointed a new CEO in the shape of Tony Bates, who previously ran Cisco's enterprise, commercial and small business arm. Bates reported directly to CEO John Chambers at Cisco and had been named as a possible future chief executive.

There were also new names on the team sheet in the vendor space in 2010. And noone rang the changes more than Finland's Nokia.

Nokia announced the departure of CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo in September, replacing him with the company's first non-Finnish chief exec, former Microsoft man Stephen Elop. Days later, Nokia's devices head Anssi Vanjoki surprised industry watchers by tendering his resignation, although noone was surprised when chairman Jorma Ollila said he would step down as of 2012.

The vendor also had to deal with departures on the OS side of its business. Ari Jaaksi, one of the key executives involved in the development of the high-end MeeGo platform resigned in October. Later that month Symbian Foundation executive director Lee Williams also handed in his notice. Both left for personal reasons, Nokia said.

Mark Hurd's departure from Hewlett-Packard made headlines in August. Hurd stepped down in the midst of an ethics probe related to the filing of expenses, resurfacing as co-president of Oracle a month later. Meanwhile, H-P unveiled Leo Apotheker, formerly of Germany's SAP, as its new CEO in October.

Finally, even Apple was not immune to executive issues. The company's iPhone engineering head Mark Papermaster left the consumer electronics specialist in August in the wake of the antenna problems experienced by the iPhone 4.

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