Vodafone Appoints Finance Boss Margherita Della Valle As Group CEO

Vodafone has opted not to install an outsider to lead the UK-based mobile operator, but rather has chosen an insider to become permanent CEO of the group.

Vodafone appointed interim chief executive officer Margherita Della Valle, the former CFO, to the role on Thursday, saying she had impressed the company’s board with her “pace and decisiveness to begin the necessary transformation” of the mobile operator, Reuters reported.

It comes after it was announced in December 2022 that chief executive Nick Read was to step down at the end of the month.

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read. Image credit: Vodafone

Permanent CEO

Read’s sudden departure came when he reportedly agreed with the board that it was the right moment for a new leader.

His decision to step down was amidst a turbulence 2022 for the operator, which saw it’s share price drop by nearly half its value compared to when he took the reins in October 2018.

Read had led Vodafone through the Covid-19 pandemic, “ensuring that our customers remained connected with their families and businesses”, said Vodafone chair Jean-François van Boxmeer at the time.

Under pressure from activist investors to focus Vodafone’s sprawling businesses Read reached a number of deals including one in November to sell off up to 50 percent of Vodafone’s 14.8 billion euro (£12.7bn) masts business.

Italian national Margherita Della Valle had taken over as interim CEO after Read’s departure, and Vodafone said it had conducted a rigorous internal and external search before choosing the insider who has been chief financial officer since 2018.

“To realise our potential Vodafone needs to change,” Margherita Della Valle was quoted by Reuters as saying. “We know we can do better. My focus will be to improve the service for our customers, simplify our business and grow.”

The appointment of Margherita Della Valle had been backed by institutional investors such as biggest shareholder Emirates Investment Authority, which has built up a 14.6 percent stake, a source told Reuters.

No big changes?

The appointment of Margherita Della Valle was noted by industry observers, including Kester Mann, director, consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight, who said the deal may signal no big changes in strategy at the operator.

“After such a protracted recruitment process, it’s hard not to conclude that the appointment of Margherita della Valle was the initial first choice for all parties after Nick Read’s departure was announced,” said Mann. “However, she has strong credentials through a wealth of experience both internationally and within Vodafone, including a stint as interim boss.

“Appointing a close aide of Mr Read to the top job suggests little deviation in strategy for Vodafone,” said Mann. “This may not go down so well with people pushing for a fresh approach to running the embattled company, but it does give Vodafone a safe pair of hands during a challenging time.”

“There will already be plenty in Margherita della Valle’s in-box,” Mann concluded. “Middle Eastern operator e& is stake-building in the operator, talks on a merger with Three UK are ongoing, and fresh discussions are underway in Italy with Iliad, according to reports.”

Last month it was reported that Vodafone and Three UK were putting the final touches on a deal to create the UK’s largest mobile operator.

Talks about the deal first emerged in May 2022, when the Financial Times reported that Vodafone was in talks to merge its UK operations with Three UK.

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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