It is a difficult decision to step down: Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao

LONDON: Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao on Wednesday said he will step down from the post by September end and it was a “difficult decision” to make after being at the helm of affairs for about a decade.

Colao was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the UK-based group in July 2008– almost a year after Vodafone brand was launched in India.

He constantly kept close watch on India business from his global position.

“I will step down as CEO. It is a difficult decision to step down as CEO from a company where you have been for 10 years,” Colao said.

In fact, Colao has been working with Vodafone for last two decades.

“Vittorio (Colao) decided the time was right – after 10 years as CEO, 14 on the Board, and 20 years at Vodafone – to hand over the reins,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.

In a statement, Vodafone said: “Effective October 1, 2018, Vittorio Colao will be succeeded by Group Chief Financial Officer Nick Read.

” In 1996, Colao joined Omnitel Pronto Italia, which subsequently became Vodafone Italy, and he was appointed Chief Executive in 1999.

Since then he has worked at various roles within the Vodafone Group.

“He is here until October, and the process has been ongoing for some months. Vodafone is purely announcing its succession plan and that involves Vittorio stepping down in October,” the spokesperson said.

Under Colao the group has been transformed from a mobile company into a mobile and fixed operator.

“He has sorted out Vodafone’s portfolio of assets through astute disposals and acquisitions, and has returned considerable amounts to shareholders,” the spokesperson said.

Colao has been very vocal on policy and industry issues arising out of India, including high spectrum cost, tariff war, legal tussle with Indian government and regulator.

The 56-year old Italian origin CEO inherited Rs 22,100 crore tax dispute between Vodafone and Indian government for a deal between Hutchinson Essar and Vodafone in 2007 that paved entry of the British telecom operator in India.

In 2012, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of Vodafone but government made amendment in tax regime same year and served notice to the British firm again.

Vodafone has challenged the tax notice under the Netherlands-India Bilateral Investment Treaty and the matter is currently arbitration.

Colao regime took major decision to merge Vodafone India with Aditya Birla Group firm Idea Cellular for sustenance of the two debt-ridden firm amid intense tariff war in India.

“We have reshaped India completely,” Colao said.

By the time Colao moves steps down from his position, Vodafone India would have reduced its exposure in India with merger into a joint venture with Aditya Birla Group.

Vodafone said that over the last ten years, he has overseen a strategic reshaping of the group, exiting minority shareholding to focus on controlled and co-controlled assets while growing mobile customer numbers from 269 million to 536 million (plus 19.

7 million broadband customers) over 25 countries, including significant businesses in India, Egypt, Turkey and across Africa, Vodafone said.

Read was appointed the group’s CFO and joined the Vodafone Group Plc Board in April 2014.

He was previously the Group’s Chief Executive for the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region and served as a board member of a number of Vodafone’s emerging markets subsidiaries including Vodacom Group and Vodafone India.

Read joined Vodafone in 2001 as Vodafone UK Finance Director before being appointed Vodafone UK Chief Commercial Officer then Vodafone UK Chief Executive.

Prior to joining Vodafone, Nick Read held senior global finance positions with United Business Media Plc and Federal Express Worldwide.

“At the date of the Group’s Annual General Meeting on 27 July 2018, Deputy CFO Margherita Della Valle will succeed Nick Read as Group Chief Financial Officer and will join the Board, and Nick Read will become Group Chief Executive-Designate,” Vodafone said.

Valle was appointed Deputy Group Chief Financial Officer in 2015.

She was previously Group Chief Financial Controller, Chief Financial Officer for the Europe region, and Chief Financial Officer for Vodafone Italy

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our gratitude to Vittorio for an outstanding tenure.

I would also add that the appointment of Nick and Margherita serves as a testament to the strength and depth of the Vodafone senior leadership team that Vittorio has assembled and led over the last decade,” Vodafone Group Chairman Gerard Kleisterlee said.(PTI)

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