Jan du Plessis steps down as BT chairman

Jan du Plessis steps down as BT chairman

Jan du Plessis - BT.jpg

BT Group (BT) has announced that its chairman Jan du Plessis will retire as chairman of the company at some point later this year.

du Plessis has not hinted at any particular reason for leaving the only, only saying that “I know the time is now right for me to step down and focus on other interests”.

He will remain in the role until a successor has been found, adding “until I hand over to my successor, I remain fully committed to BT and helping Philip continue to deliver for all our customers, colleagues and shareholders”.

Having joined BT as a non-executive director in June 2017, du Plessis was appointed chairman in November 2017. He previously, executive leadership roles at the likes of British American Tobacco, RHM, Lloyds TSB Group, Rio Tinto and SAB Miller.

During his time with the incumbent UK telco du Plessis says it has ushered in “a refreshed Board and much-strengthened senior management team”

“We have made big strides in enhancing customer service and have really stepped up to support the country during the pandemic,” he added.

“Above all, our relationship with Ofcom has improved significantly over the last three years and I strongly believe the Board’s commitment to invest in a full fibre network is in the long-term interests of all BT’s stakeholders.”

The news comes as BT has seen falling share prices and declining revenues with some industry analysts questioning his motivations for leaving. Specifically, BT suspended its 2019/20 final dividend and all dividends for 2020/21, back in May due to due to the impact of Covid-19 with share prices declining 50% since du Plessis entered the role in 2017.

Rumours have also been swirling that there were tensions between du Plessis and CEO, Jansen over the direction of the group, with Jansen in favour of selling off a stake in its infrastructure business Openreach to private equity investors to raise funds for BT’s full fibre rollout. With  du Plessis and CFO Simon Lowth against this idea, a claim that BT later said is ‘categorically untrue'. 

In his own words on du Plessis’ resignation, Jansen said: “I’d like to personally thank Jan for both his service to BT but also his commitment and support to me since I joined. His wise counsel, in particular over the last year as we have led the company through the pandemic has been hugely appreciated.”

“Jan’s focus on improving customer experiences, investing for the l2ong-term and motivating our colleagues has been consistent throughout his time at BT and with his strong support we now have a clear strategy to deliver in the years ahead.”

The board has confirmed that it will now start the process to find du Plessis’ successor, a search that will be led by senior independent director, Iain Conn.

"On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our enormous gratitude to Jan for his leadership and guidance. We are very sorry to know he will be leaving,” said Conn.

“He has chaired BT through a period involving important strategic decisions and considerable change and will leave behind a very strong legacy".

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