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BT’s new chairman brings experience in content and sports

Adam Crozier was the head of the English Football Association, which could say something about BT’s plans for the future, given he has just been named as the telco’s new Chairman.

However, Crozier’s CV is packed with high-profile roles in the British business world, so those of us whose thoughts immediately turned to the beautiful game might have to think again; Crozier is an establishment figure – as predicted – deemed right for the job by the UK’s telecoms incumbent. Then again, there are hints in BT’s announcement that his background in content could be important…

BT formally named Crozier as Jan du Plessis’s replacement on Tuesday, the appointment having leaked out in the UK press last week.

“After a thorough and comprehensive process to ensure we identified the very best candidate to lead BT, Adam is the unanimous choice of the board,” said BT’s senior independent director Iain Conn. “He has significant experience in leading public company boards, developing teams and managing stakeholders and brings a strong transformational and operational track record in large-scale executive roles.”

It’s the sort of statement you would expect in this situation and doesn’t really tell us a lot. It is accurate though; Crozier has a lot of experience.

He currently serves as non-executive chairman of hospitality business Whitbread, fashion retailer ASOS, and consulting firm Kantar Group, as well as non-executive director at tech group Sony; he will step down from both ASOS and Sony later this year. He has also chaired the boards of theatre company Stage Entertainment and cinema chain Vue.

Crozier’s most recent chief executive role was at ITV, a position he held for seven years until June 2017. Prior to that he was CEO of Royal Mail for seven years, spent two years as chief executive of the FA, and served as joint CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi for five years.

Interestingly, BT chose to highlight Crozier’s achievements at ITV in particular, noting that under his leadership the television network “was transformed into one of the most successful and dynamic media and content companies in the world and its financial performance improved dramatically.” Is it too much of a stretch to suggest there is a hint here as to BT’s intentions for the content side of its business?

Possibly, but with the telco keeping schtum on the future of its sports business, which it indicated might be up for sale more than three months ago, there is bound to be speculation.

For now, it’s really about back-slapping and speaking in platitudes.

“I would like to thank Jan for his leadership over the last four years. He has overseen the achievement of significant milestones and the recent improvement in BT’s fortunes and his careful stewardship has left the business in a better, stronger position,” said BT chief executive Philip Jansen. Whether it’s strictly correct that BT is in a better place now than when du Plessis took over in late 2017 is questionable – the telco’s share price suggests otherwise – but its performance this year so far has been encouraging.

“On behalf of the Executive Committee and all our colleagues, I would like to wish him well for the future,” Jansen said. “I am delighted to welcome Adam to BT and I really look forward to working with him as we target returning BT to consistent growth.”

For his part, Crozier made all the right noises too.

“It is an honour to join the board of BT and to succeed Jan as Chair,” he said. “BT is a hugely important company, with a critical role to play in building the digital networks and services to support the UK’s future. I look forward to working with the board, Philip and his executive team to create value for all our stakeholders.”


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