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Telecom CEO contenders

Chris Keall
Thu, 15 Dec 2011

Dec 15: Telecom Retail head Alan Gourdie wants the chief executive role being vacated by Paul Reynolds.

“The board said they are seeking internal and external candidates, and I’m putting up my hand as an internal candidate,” Mr Gourdie told NBR last night.

A second possible internal candidate, Gen-i boss Chris Quin - whose star rose as he fronted candidly to customers and media during the XT launch debacle - declined to comment on whether he would, or would not, take a tilt at the top.

A third, chief marketing officer Jason Paris, told NBR, “No, not this time around.”

Another rumoured internal candidate is director Rod Snodgrass, an accountant by background and one-time head of Xtra who recently took on the cross-division, newly created chief product officer role. Some analysts see Mr Snodgrass - who was recruited by Theresa Gattung - as being groomed for the big chair. Telecom comms staff denied an NBR request to interview Mr Snodgrass.

Meanwhile, a senior Telecom insider has told NBR that Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter – COO during Theresa Gattung’s reign – is being discussed as a possible external candidate. Other possible sons for the return home are one-time Telecom Wholesale chief Matt Crockett (now with APN) and former Telecom CFO Marko Bogoievski (now Infratil CEO). Mr Bogoievski walked after being passed over for the top job in favour of Dr Reynolds.

While former Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell is still at a loose-end after leaving General Motors, it is thought Telecom (now halved in size after the Chorus spin-off) is too small a company for his ambition.

NBR has also thrown former HP New Zealand country manager and Vodafone Australia chief executive Russell Hewitt into the mix. Since recently returning to NZ, Mr Hewitt has been involved with special projects for Vodafone NZ, including restructuring its retail operation, and overseeing Christchurch reconstruction.

It is expected that the board will also assess international candidates. 

Dr Reynolds' replacement will be named before the end of Telecom's financial year, June 30.

Background in booze, marketing
Mr Gourdie, who had a series of roles in the global liquor industry before joining Telecom, has had mixed fortunes as chief executive of the company’s retail division, which includes landlines, broadband and mobile.

His efforts to hold the line in retail broadband market share, revamp Telecom’s stores and restructure its retail and call centre operations are well regarded by analysts.

However, Telecom’s TiVo partnership with TVNZ fell flat (Telecom was the exclusive retailer for the failed set-top box).

And after its famously rocky launch, XT update has been on the slow side – although it has been boosted recently by Telecom securing the iPhone.

A new initiative to boost numbers at the budget end of the market – Skinny Mobile – has drawn complaints from competitors by dint of its bid to re-introduce the controversial practise of locking a phone to a network.

Mr Gourdie acted fast when Telecom's "abstain" World Cup ads drew public flack, killing the campaign within 24 hours. But some will ask how the pink fist motif got approved in the first place.

Chris Keall
Thu, 15 Dec 2011
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Telecom CEO contenders