New BT Chairman du Plessis has his work cut out

BT has announced Jan du Plessis will replace Sir Mike Rake as Chairman, after his retirement in November later this year.

In the meantime, du Plessis will join BT as a Non-Executive Director from June, leaving his current role as Chairman of mining giant Rio Tinto, which he has held since 2009. du Plessis has a track record of bringing positive results for investors, having delivered over £9 billion in shareholder returns at Rio Tinto since 2013. At a time where telcos are being squeezed for every penny, his arrival will likely be welcomed by BT investors.

“I am honoured to have been asked to become BT’s Chairman,” said du Plessis. “BT is a great British company with excellent people and Mike has done an outstanding job as Chairman over the last 10 years. This is an important time for the company and I look forward to working with Gavin and his team to help BT continue to support Britain’s digital future.”

While BT is in a relatively strong position in certain markets, du Plessis is unlikely to have a completely smooth ride in the BT hot seat. Aside from the Italian accounting scandal which rocked BT’s quarterly figures recently, the team has also had its fair bit of grief from Ofcom, relating to the relationship between the Group and wholesaler Ofcom.

Ofcom has been determined in recent months to increase the breathing room between BT and Openreach, though the telco has been acting very similar to a stubborn child, putting forward suggestions which, quite frankly, look half-arsed. One of more creative ideas from BT was to appoint an independent board to the wholesaler, but oversee the appointments of the individuals itself.

One must start to wonder whether the BT team is making these sloppy suggestions under the assumption Ofcom will simply get bored of the back and forth, simply giving up. Perhaps du Plessis will be able to provide direction and put the incredibly boring saga behind us.

“Whilst clearly there are continuing challenges, the performance of the company remains on track,” said Rake. “This gives me great confidence in its future and I wish Jan every success as he leads BT at this important time.”

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