Kirky will take over the role no later than the end of January 2024

Today, BT has announced that their new CEO will be Allison Kirkby, current CEO of Swedish operator Telia.

Kirkby, who is already a non-executive board member of BT, will replace the outgoing Philip Jansen, who confirmed he would be stepping down from the role earlier this month.

Jansen joined BT in 2019 and, just one year later, had the unenviable task of leading the company through the coronavirus pandemic.

But while the company’s response to this global crisis was broadly praised, the relative turmoil did little to alleviate the financial pressure on the UK operator, which had attempting to streamline itself for years prior to Jansen’s tenure.

Indeed, Jansen’s four years as CEO would see the company take these cost-cutting measures even further, increasing the companies savings target from £2.5 billion to £3 billion by 2025.

More recently, as part of this process, he orchestrated a massive job cutting programme at BT, aiming to reduce the company’s workforce by around 55,000 people by the end of the decade. At the time, Jansen said that the growing role of AI would reduce the number of network engineers needed by around 10,000, with AI-related automation expected to replace a further 10,000 jobs.

Kirkby, it seems, aims to continue the structural transformation Jansen started, saying in a statement that she was fully supportive of the strategy.

“I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the next chief executive of BT Group,” said Kirkby. “BT is such an important company for the UK and our many customers, both in the UK and internationally, and is uniquely placed to help everyone benefit from the rapid advances in digitalisation. Our products and services have never been more important to how our customers live and work, and thanks to the significant investment BT is putting into digital infrastructure and in the modernisation of its services, I see us playing an even more important role going forward. Having been a member of the BT Group board for the past four years, I’m fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading it into its next phase of development, as we grow to support customers, shareholders and the UK economy.”

Kirkby has plenty of relevant experience to draw from, having held the role of CEO at both Danish operator TDC and Swedish operator Tele2 before taking up the leadership position at Telia in 2020.

During her time at Telia, she had in fact been overseeing a similar streamlining process to the one now facing her at BT, having divested of the company’s assets and improved efficiencies while simultaneously maintaining the pace of its expensive 5G network rollout.

Kirkby will remain in the role of Telia CEO until the end of January 2024 at the latest, with the Swedish company saying it will begin looking for a replacement immediately.

But perhaps a more unique challenge awaits Kirkby at BT in the form of the increasing presence of billionaire Patrick Drahi within the company’s corporate structure.

The French-Israeli telecoms magnate has grown his stake in BT steadily to 24.5% since 2021, with recent rumours suggesting that he is considering increasing that stake yet further, to 29.9% – the maximum stake allowed before triggering a mandatory investigation by the UK government.

Drahi insists that he has no interest in presenting BT with a takeover offer, but this has not stopped BT from taking suitable precautions.

In fact, Drahi may not be the only investor that could be interested in taking control of the UK telecoms giant, with reports earlier this month suggesting that Deutsche Telekom may be preparing its own takeover effort.

Thus, with major cost savings to be achieved, an expensive fibre rollout to complete, and hungry investors potentially poised to pounce on BT’s financial misfortune, Kirkby will surely have her work cut out for her at the helm of BT.

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