He cut thousands of jobs, but he brought profit – BT CEO Ian Livingston is leaving to become minister for trade and investment
CEO of BT Ian Livingston is leaving the company after five years leading the telecoms giant, taking up an unpaid role as minister for trade and investment.
Livingston will join the House of Lords prior to his ministerial appointment, before handing over the reins to Gavin Patterson, who moves up from CEO of BT Retail. Livingston made the same jump up in 2008, when he took over from the then BT Group CEO Ben Verwaayen.
In December, Livingston, who also sits on the board of Celtic Football Club, will replace Lord Green, who is retiring from government, as trade and investment minister.
BT loss, government gain
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the announcement, calling Livingston “an outstanding business leader”.
“It is a testament to the importance of this role that he has agreed to serve in the government in this capacity,” Cameron added.
“I know that he will make an invaluable contribution to this agenda as the government continues to open new trade links and grow our exports.”
Livingston said: “While it has been an immensely difficult decision to step down from my role at BT, it is a huge honour to be asked by the Prime Minister to take on this role. The government has shown great commitment to the promotion of UK trade and investment.”
The outgoing CEO has overseen some topsy-turvy times at BT. When Livingston became CEO in 2008, the company reported losses of £134 million. Following tens of thousands of job cuts, and improvements to its Global Services and Openreach divisions, BT returned to profit within three years.
It has remained the UK’s number one telecoms company in the face of strong competition from the likes of Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk, particularly in the broadband space.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has continued to enforce strict measures on how much BT can charge its rivals for infrastructure too, making life at the top that little bit harder.
BT has increasingly focused on a long-term strategy, which may have hurt its short-term growth, but has seen BT cover the country in its fibre infrastructure. It has won every contract backed by the government’s Broadband Development UK (BDUK) project, to the dismay of some smaller players who don’t want to see a monopoly emerge.
BT’s most recent results beat expectations, with a two percent rise in annual profits to reach £2.5 billion for its 2012 fiscal year, despite a decline in revenues. Those profits equalled the amount BT has pumped into spreading fibre broadband to around two thirds of UK homes by 2015 – a target it believes it will beat.
The firm has also invested £738 million over three years to secure live Premier League football rights for its BT Sport channel, launched last month.
“The company is in a strong place. We have great opportunities ahead and are well placed to take advantage of them, in the UK and internationally. We have the people, the technology and the plans we need to build on our current successes,” added Patterson.
Do you know the history of BT? Try our quiz!