BT’s Successor Allison Kirkby To Start As CEO On 1 February

BT Group has confirmed the start date of its first female chief executive, who will lead the former UK telecoms incumbent from next month.

In an emailed statement to Silicon UK, BT confirmed that “Allison Kirkby will start as our new Chief Executive on Thursday 1st February.”

It comes after current chief executive Philip Jansen shocked the telecoms sector last July, when he announced he would step down within the next 12 months.

New chief executive

Philip Jansen had replaced then chief executive Gavin Patterson in 2018, but only took over the role in February 2019.

Jansen led 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.

In August 2023, BT said that Philip Jansen would step down as chief executive at the end of January 2024.

BT then named its first female boss, 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.

Takeover rumours

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

Deutsche Telekom is a major shareholder in BT, with a 12 percent stake, and according to some media reports last year, was maybe 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.

Meanwhile business at BT continues as usual.

Earlier this week, BT said it would retrofit roadside cabinets as EV chargers, under a pilot scheme aimed at addressing the glaring deficiencies in UK EV infrastructure.

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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