Vodafone Group CEO Colao to step down

15 May 2018 | James Pearce

Vittorio Colao, the CEO of Vodafone Group, is to step down in October after more than a decade in the role.

Vittorio Colao 160x186Colao (pictured, left) will be replaced by current chief financial officer Nick Read, who has been with the UK-based telecoms giant since 2001.

Colao’s departure comes amidst some of Vodafone’s largest M&A activity. The CEO announced last week that the telco had struck an €18 billion deal to buy Liberty Global’s German and Eastern European cable assets after years of wrangling and rumours, whilst it is also close to completing a merger of Vodafone India and rival Idea Cellular.

56-year-old Colao was Vodafone’s CEO of Europe took the reins at Vodafone in 2008, succeeding Arun Sarin. During his tenure, Vodafone has seen its mobile customer base grow from 269 million to 536 million across 25 countries.

Vodafone Group chairman Gerard Kleisterlee said: "On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our gratitude to Vittorio for an outstanding tenure. He has been an exemplary leader and strategic visionary who has overseen a dramatic transformation of Vodafone into a global pacesetter in converged communications, ready for the Gigabit future. Vittorio will leave as his legacy a company of great integrity with strong inclusive values that is exceptionally well-positioned for the decade ahead."

His replacement, Read, has been Group chief financial officer since 2014. He previously served as Vodafone’s chief executive for the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific region as well as a board member for both Vodacom and Vodafone India.

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

Read will become chief executive-designate at Vodafone’s Annual General Meeting in July, and will take over officially from Colao when he leaves on 1 October 2018. He will be replaced as CFO by deputy CFO Margherita Della Valle.

Della Valle was appointed deputy Group CFO in 2015. She was previously chief financial controller, chief financial officer for the Europe region, and CFO for Vodafone Italy. She joined Omnitel Pronto Italia – which later became Vodafone Italy – in 1994 and held various consumer marketing positions in business analytics and customer base management before moving to finance.

Kleisterlee added: "Nick has been the co-architect of the Group’s strategy together with Vittorio, combining extensive international operational and commercial leadership with world-class financial acumen. I am confident Vodafone will benefit greatly from his experience, insight and wisdom in his new role as Group Chief Executive. 

"Margherita has a strong track record in financial leadership at the highest levels, and I am delighted to welcome her to the Board. 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."

The announcement came as Vodafone revealed its full-year financial results, which saw revenue dip 2.2% to €46.6 billion, hit by struggles in the Indian market, where EBITDA has declined by more than a third.

Despite the dip, Colao called the financial year one of "significant operational and strategic achievement and strong financial performance" pointing to revenue and margin growth in Vodafone’s Enterprise business.

The fixed service revenue sector – which includes Vodafone Carrier Services – generated €2.7 billion for the group, up from €2.6 billion in 2017.

Topics: Vittorio Colao, Vodafone, Nick Read, appointments, Arun Sarin, Gerard Kleisterlee