Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone Group

The CEO of the world’s largest international carrier by revenue and footprint, Vittorio Colao was absorbed into the Vodafone machine when the UK carrier took over Italian operation Omnitel Pronto Italia as part of its acquisition of Mannesmann in 2000.

He spent a brief stint out of the fold before returning in 2006, and succeeding Arun Sarin a year ago. Presiding over a customer base in excess of 300 million, Colao’s decisions have enormous repercussions for the industry at large.

Technology strategies, value chain positions, supplier selections: by dint of its sheer size, Vodafone’s choices ripple outwards.

Vodafone CEOs have had themed tenures. Chris Gent was the empire builder while Sarin was an integration man, although the Indian acquisition towards the end of his time in the chair was a major coup. How Colao will define his time at the top is not yet clear, although the in-country consolidation in Australia that saw the firm merge with 3, may well be repeated in the UK as, at the time of writing, Vodafone is believed to be the prime contender in the purchase of T-Mobile.

Perhaps consolidation will be his watchword. Colao secured an increased stake in South African Vodacom in June, and control of that carrier represents a victory, truly opening the African continent to Vodafone at a time when other big continental players there are in times of transition. And if Colao could solve the nagging Verizon Wireless ownership issue in the US, meanwhile, he’d be a hero at headquarters.

He recently relocated the headquarters from the company hometown of Newbury, Berkshire to London, which left more than a few feathers ruffled.

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