BT announced this morning that Pierre Danon, who recently resigned as head of BT Retail to become chief operating officer at Capgemini, will be replaced by current BT group chief financial officer Ian Livingston in February.
Industry watchers pointed out that "high flier" Livingston takes the top job at a critical time, as BT faces falling voice revenues, increased competition from mobile operators, and fundamental challenges from internet telephony.
Julian Hewett, chief analyst at Ovum, noted that by choosing an internal replacement for Danon, BT has been able to act swiftly to fill the BT Retail vacancy.
"Livingston will hit the ground running, since he already has a clear view of the challenges facing him," he said.
"These include the continuing decline of fixed voice revenues due to competition from mobile and other fixed operators (nine per cent in BT's most recent quarter), meeting the impending impact of VoIP, continuing to reduce costs, and the need to innovate and launch new services, particularly in the DSL market."
BT pointed out that, before joining the telco in April 2000, Livingston was the youngest finance director of a FTSE 100 company (at Dixons).
Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT Group, said: "It is proof of the strength of BT's management that we have been able to make two such senior appointments from within the company."
Ovum predicted that, with Danon out of the picture, there will be a "modest reorganisation" to help BT Retail focus on its core consumer and small business segments.
Hewett noted that, apart from Livingston, BT has made few high-level appointments from outside since chief executive Ben Verwaayen joined at the beginning of 2002.
"Livingston is obviously a high flyer, and still only 40. He will clearly have a very strong grasp of the financials. But does he have the leadership qualities for navigating BT Retail through the next five disruptive years?" Hewett asked.
Livingston will be replaced by Hanif Lalani, currently chief financial officer at BT Wholesale.
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