11 June 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Former Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg will take over from Lowell McAdam as group CEO of Verizon at the beginning of August.
Vestberg takes over at a time when
Verizon is accelerating its investment in 5G networks as well as more fibre – and a
greater focus on content and services.
He joined Verizon in April 2017, first as
executive vice president for its network and technology team
and then as CTO. Ericsson’s board fired him in
August 2016 after poor results ended his 28-year career at
McAdam, who has been CEO since 2011, will be executive chairman
until the end of 2018 and then non-executive chairman.
The retiring CEO said: "I am confident that Hans is the right
person to bring Verizon through its next chapter. Hans is an
energising force who will continue to position Verizon to lead
the fourth industrial revolution – the emergence of
technologies that blend the physical and the digital to create
historic breakthroughs in connectivity and mobility."
In a YouTube video, McAdam addressed staff – the
"V-team", he calls them – and praised
Vestberg’s record in looking after "customer and
Vestberg said: "We are experiencing unprecedented changes in
the way users interact in the digital world, and we are racing
ahead to remain at the forefront of technology, connectivity
and mobility. To know Lowell is to be inspired by his vision
for Verizon’s role in shaping the future."
The change in leadership may give Verizon a more international
and forward-looking perspective. Ivan Seidenberg, the CEO who
helped bring Verizon into existence through a series of mergers
at the start of the millennium, famously wondered why anyone
should want to use a cellphone in their home.
Less well known is Seidenberg’s unwillingness to
travel, even after Verizon acquired MCI WorldCom in January
2006, and a relative lack of interest in the world outside the
McAdam has also been focused on the national market in the US,
especially after Verizon bought out Vodafone’s 45%
stake in Verizon Wireless in 2014 for $130 billion. That bold
move meant the group was in charge of all of its destiny, fixed
and wireless – but almost entirely in the US.
Vestberg, by contrast, is Swedish by birth and international by
perspective. For Ericsson he worked in Brazil, Chile and China
as well as Sweden. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish as well as
Swedish and English.
He will lead a Verizon that is much more international in
leadership than it was in the past, thanks to two other McAdam
appointments. The head of Verizon Wireless is Ronan Dunne, the
Irish executive who used to be CEO of Telefónica UK. The
chief strategy officer is Rima Qureshi,
who began with a degree in information systems at McGill
University in Montréal – and then joined
Ericsson Research in Canada in 1993. She was head of Ericsson
North America when she left the company a year ago.
Vestberg was a member from the start of the Broadband
Commission for Digital Development, a project of the
International Telecommunication Union with the support of
Unesco. He is a member of the leadership council of the
UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He
is a board member of the UN Foundation. And he is concerned
about climate change.
What he is not is an engineer, in contrast to previous CEOs.
Seidenberg started as a cable splicer at New York Telephone and
McAdam has a degree in engineering, but Vestberg’s
degree is in business administration.
Frances Keeth, Verizon’s lead independent
director, said: "The board has been impressed not only by
Hans’s performance and vision leading one of the
largest organisations within Verizon, but also by his depth of
experience, track record of operational success and passion for
innovation. Hans is uniquely qualified to step into this role
and to continue to drive growth and innovation across