Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Verizon's Ronan Dunne to Becoming BT's CEO

Ronan Dunne, the current CEO of Verizon Wireless popped up on the news led by an article in the UK's Telegraph business pages this past Saturday, Sept 2.  The gist of the speculation is that he was in the UK in the previous week supposedly interviewing for the BT CEO job.  His background seems right as he had been an O2 (BT's wireless carrier competitor)  since 2001 with stints as CFO in 2005 and ultimately the CEO from 2008 to 2016.

In 2016, he joined Verizon and how he got here to the States was a subject of an thorough  Independent piece.  Much has been speculated that he was looking for a new position after Hans Vestburg got the Verizon CEO nod.  I noted that he could have been a candidate for the the Lowell McAdam vacancy in an earlier June blogpost but there were stronger candidates.  

Here are some quick pros and cons for Dunne to take the BT CEO helm:

    • As a European and as a long time area telecom hand, he already has the knowledge base for the continent and appreciates the complexities and quirks of each country.
    • Dunne had a successful track record at O2 but in the year plus, he's gained the experience of running a far larger wireless operation with different challenges and buyer demographics (i.e. predominantly postpaid).  Under his watch, unlimited plans returned to the service portfolio and eliminated the stigma that Verizon was the sole non-unlimited plan provider.
    • Since American 5G planning and deployment has exceeded that of European counterparts, Dunne's competitive advantage will be the insight of getting ready for 5G fixed and mobile services.  
    • If BT takes Dunne on, he's be an experienced European CEO but with a fresh and valuable external perspective.

    • BT is more than a wireless company and Dunne doesn't have any direct landline operations experience.  While many telecom companies such as AT&T, Verizon and BT have integrated as 'one' company, the businesses are a bit different.  If it's like the American landline experience, he'd have to figure out a way to slow or reverse subscriber losses. 
    • According to the Telegraph article, Patterson, the ex-BT CEO was bogged down in regulatory fights. Although Dunne knows the European regulatory scene, he has also battled with them. His last regulatory fight ended with the denial of the Hutchinson of O2. 
    • Dunne's contract at Verizon may be the wild card.  Does it allow him to get out of his duties and with what penalties or forfeitures of substantial bonuses.  Is there a non-compete that will limit him? Will the Verizon Board and Vestburg make a play to retain him?
    On paper, Dunne as an experienced executive is fit to lead BT and like many job opportunities, it may be fit, chemistry and upside in the decision making process.  I guess we'll see soon what happens as BT needs to fill the vacancy quickly.