Telefónica boss to take over Richard’s role at GSMA

Telefónica boss to take over Richard’s role at GSMA

José María Álvarez-Pallete Telefónica.jpg

Telefónica chairman and CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete is to chair the board of the GSMA, in the latest consequence of the removal of Stéphane Richard from the leadership of Orange.

Only serving leaders in the industry can head the mobile industry’s powerful trade association, so Richard’s role as chair of the GSMA became untenable following his conviction in a fraud trial for misuse of public funds.

Richard’s term would normally have run until the end of 2022. Álvarez-Pallete’s term of office as new chair also runs out at the end of 2022 – highlighting that Álvarez-Pallete (pictured) is a substitute for Richard and is not starting his own term of office.

Last Friday Orange announced that Richard’s successor at the French company will be Christel Heydemann, who takes office on 4 April.

In November 2021 Orange confirmed that Richard would leave his position following his conviction in a fraud trial for misuse of public funds. The case concerned a €400 million pay-out to the late businessman Bernard Tapie in 2008.

Now the GSMA has said that Álvarez-Pallete of Telefónica will succeed Richard in his role as board chair. His deputy will be Rima Qureshi, executive VP and chief strategy officer of Verizon.

Álvarez-Pallete has spent the last 23 years at Telefónica, starting in February 1999 as head of finance for Telefónica Internacional, before moving in 2006 to Telefónica Latinoamérica. He also joined the group’s board in 2006.

Álvarez-Pallete said: “Increased digitisation must include responsible leadership to drive growth, job creation, sustainability, and accelerate digital inclusion. I look forward to supporting the GSMA drive these critical issues, and many others, with the GSMA board.”

Telefónica was quick to point out that this is the first time someone from a Spanish company has chaired the GSMA. The industry association, which represents 1,200 companies in the industry, will return to Barcelona later in February for its latest Mobile World Congress (MWC). (Edit: Though someone with a long memory has contacted Capacity to point out that the late Miguel Menchen of Telefónica was chairman of the GSM Memorandum of Understanding organisation, the predecessor of the GSMA, in 1992.) 

This is at least the second time that the GSMA has had to find a substitute chair. In 2015, Jon Fredrik Baksaas stepped down from the leadership of Telenor in the wake of a bribery and corruption scandal at VimpelCom, in which the Norwegian company was a major shareholder.

As a result Baksaas ceased to be chair of the GSMA, and was replaced by Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Airtel.


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