BT Appoints Allison Kirkby As Carrier’s First Female CEO

BT Group has announced its successor to lead the former UK telecoms incumbent in the years going forward.

BT announced the appointment of Allison Kirkby as chief executive, who will take over from Philip Jansen as chief executive around the end of January 2024 at the latest.

Last month Philip Jansen had announced he would step down within the next 12 months, after leading the carrier through a tough couple of years that included the FTTP fibre rollout, the Coronavirus pandemic (during which Jansen himself caught Covid-19), and making some tough calls over BT’s workforce reduction, by cutting 42 percent (55,000 roles) from its workforce by 2030.

Allison Kirkby

Philip Jansen had been announced as the replacement for then chief executive Gavin Patterson in 2018, but only took over the role in February 2019.

Patterson had been in charge at BT since 2013, when he took over as head of the carrier from previous chief executive, Ian Livingston.

Now in six months time, BT will once again have a new CEO in the form of Allison Kirkby, who previously has been President & CEO of Sweden’s Telia Company since early 2020.

Kirkby previously had joined BT rival Virgin Media, and was also President & CEO of TDC, the largest telecommunications company in Denmark, and President & CEO of Tele2 AB, the largest challenger telecommunications company in Sweden and the Baltics.

Kirkby is Scottish and is seen in the telecoms sector as something of a turnaround specialist. She has been a non-executive director at BT Group since 2019.

“The Board is delighted to have appointed Allison as our new Chief Executive,” said Adam Crozier, BT Group chairman.

“She is a proven leader, with deep sector experience and a history of having transformed businesses. I look forward to supporting her as we drive our long-term strategy to transform BT Group, ensuring it delivers for all our stakeholders.”

Important company

“I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the next Chief Executive of BT Group,” Allison Kirkby added. “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,” said Kirkby.

“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 concluded.

Jansen handover

Philip Jansen will continue to serve as chief executive until the end of January 2024 at the latest.

When Jansen steps down, he will hand over to Kirkby, BT said.

Jansen will be available to support the handover until the end of March 2024, at which point he intends to retire from executive life.

“Philip continues to lead the business very effectively as can be seen in the good progress shown at our most recent financial results,” said Adam Crozier, speaking about the transition period.

“Given Allison is already on the Board, we are confident we will have an orderly leadership transition and handover of responsibilities.”

Takeover rumours

Jansen’s departure and appointment of Allison Kirkby comes amid market rumours of a possible takeover of the UK carrier by a foreign competitor.

Deutsche Telekom for example is a major shareholder in BT, with a 12 percent stake, and according to some media reports may be preparing an offer for BT.

But it should also be remembered that Patrick Drahi – a French-Israeli telecoms billionaire, who is also the founder and head of Altice Europe, the second largest telecoms firm in France, may also be in the hunt after he acquired a 12.1 percent stake in BT in June 2021, via his subsidiary Altice UK.

Drahi then increased this stake to 18 percent in December 2021, and then raised it again to 24.5 percent in May 2023.

The UK government has previously warned all parties involved that it was monitoring the situation. It stated it would intervene if necessary to protect BT, which has built most of the UK’s critical fibre network.

In May 2022 the UK government confirmed it was conducting a full national security assessment of Altice’s stake increase in BT.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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