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Veon CEO calls it a day with no replacement lined up

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CEO Jean-Yves Charlier has decided to step away from the artist formerly known as Vimpelcom but they don’t seem to have even started looking for a new one.

Ursula Burns, who has been Chairman of Veon since July 2017, will now become Executive Chairman, which basically means she’s doing the CEO job too. To be fair she’s pretty well qualified for the gig, having been CEO of Xerox from 2009-2016, but she’s presumably now in the board member phase of her career, including American Express, Exxon Mobil, Nestlé and Uber, and Diageo next month.

“It has been a privilege to lead Veon through a critical period in its history,” said Charlier. “Over the past three years, we have achieved a profound transformation of the group and I am immensely proud of all that we have accomplished. The transformation creates a solid foundation for a positive path for the company in the years ahead and I wish Ursula and the Veon teams across the world the very best.”

“The supervisory board and I want to extend our thanks to Jean-Yves for his contribution during his time at Veon,” said Burns. “He leaves the company having led three years of performance, structural and business transformation, and he will assist me with the transition.

“With Veon’s unique geographic footprint, and a strong push on our digital agenda to better serve our 240 million customers, we are well positioned to compete, grow and prosper in the markets we serve. I look forward to working even closer with Veon’s management team to build on our strong foundations and find further opportunities to unlock value for our shareholders.”

The protagonists clearly want to create the impression of everything being mellow, groovy and under control. But the ideal succession choreography for losing a CEO is for the process of replacing them to be well underway by the time you go public. This doesn’t seem to be the case here and Veon is even having to hastily promote Kjell Morten Johnsen from Head of Major Markets to interim COO to help Burns out.

This latest executive turmoil follows Jon Eddy, Head of Emerging Markets and Mikhail Gerchuk, Head of Eurasia, stepping down in February. “I would like to thank Jon and Mikhail for their strong leadership and commitment over the years,” said Charlier at the time, perhaps using that opportunity to jot down some ideas for his own leaving canned quotes.


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