7 candidates who could replace Philip Jansen as BT CEO

7 candidates who could replace Philip Jansen as BT CEO

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Who is poised to take the top job at BT as Jansen prepares for a 2024 exit?

Following the news on 10th July 2023 that BT CEO Philip Jansen would be leaving the business at an “appropriate moment” sometime in 2024, Capacity has been speaking with industry analysts to get an idea of who could be in the running to take the top job.

A number of internal and external candidates have emerged, with consensus on whether BT would prefer an internal hire or an external candidate split.

The CEO role at BT is a unique blend of running a public company, but its also has a political element, which makes it a tough role to fill.

Jansen, himself was hired from outside the industry, spending five years at global payments provider Worldpay.

An equity research analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, suggested BT would be wise to hire someone from within the industry, who could grasp the sensitive nature of the job. Jansen has come under fire for his comments about fibre alt-net’s, which raised the ire of Ofcom, and he has also been targeted for his comments about unions while leading BT.

The hunt for a new CEO is being led by executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

1)      Marc Allera, CEO, consumer division at BT Group

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The apparent frontrunner to replace Jansen is internal candidate Marc Allera, the CEO of BT’s Consumer Division. In his current role, Allera has led BT’s Plusnet division since September of 2017 and has been CEO of EE since January 2016, after enjoying a stint as chief commercial officer for four years prior.

“BT is now in a far different position and is on a journey with the strategy largely set in stone. There’s no need to rock the boat. Why look elsewhere when the ideal person is already there?” said Paolo Pescatore, technology, media & telecoms analyst at PP Foresight.

Consumer revenue is now around half of BT Group’s total revenue with the business unit putting in place aggressive growth targets, which makes Allera a prime candidate.

“Under Jansen stewardship, [Allera] has gained a better understanding of the business, he knows the industry inside and out and has a healthy respect across partners and rivals,” Pescatore continued.


2)      Allison Kirkby, president & CEO, Telia

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is that Allera’s closest rival to replace Jansen is Allison Kirkby, CEO of the Swedish telco, Telia Group. Kirkby took a non-executive director board seat at BT in March 2019 and is a member of the audit & risk as well as the BT compliance and nominations committees. She has been CEO of Telia since May 2020.

BT’s website cites her valuable and recent experience in finance and the international telecoms and media sector, combined with strong experience in driving performance, improving customer service and delivering shareholder value as relevant skills and key contributions to BT.


3)      Olaf Swantee, board leader and investor, formerly at EE



Olaf Swantee is frequently tied to top positions in European telecoms, but the former CEO of EE and leader of the merger between Orange and T-Mobile is a self-proclaimed “CEO turned investor,” according to his website.

Swantee was linked to the Vodafone top job before CFO Margherita De La Valle stepped up full time earlier this year. Around the time he was touted as a potential successor to former Vodafone CEO Nick Reed, Swantee blasted incumbent telcos in a Financial Times article where he accused them of being too complex and not listening to their customers.

Swantee had ties to Vodafone due to a short stint as a non-executive director on the board that was cut short over an apparent conflict of interest due to his many other roles across the sector.

The Financial Times article at the time was interpreted by some as a potential bid to raise his profile and outline something of a manifesto of reform if he was to resume a top job at a UK telco, so while unlikely, he is certainly a candidate to succeed Jansen.


4)      Simon Lowth, CFO, BT Group


It’s not uncommon for CFO’s to step up and take the top job. As such BT Group’s CFO Simon Lowth has been named as a potential successor, although the justification is more based in tradition than any compelling reason for him to succeed Jansen.

Data collected in Crist Kolder Associates’ Volatility Report from 2022 found that the number of CEOs in the S&P and Fortune 500 that had been promoted from CFO hit an all-time high of 8.1%.

Lowth served as CFO under Jansen’s predecessor Gavin Patterson when he was appointed to the board and his current role in 2016. He was tied to the top job in 2018 when Patterson stepped down, but the board opted with external candidate Jansen at that time.


5)      Stephen Carter, CEO, Informa

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Politician and businessman Stephen Carter is another name that has resurfaced after being tied to the BT job in 2018. Carter has a storied history in the telecoms industry, serving as COO of NTL between 2000-2003, a company in which Virgin Media’s origins can be traced.

He left NTL to lead Ofcom between 2003-2006, joined a government role under former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s administration, and after a few other executive roles ended up as CEO of information services company Informa, a position he still holds today.

Sky News reported that he was formally approached to lead BT in 2018 and was also linked to the Vodafone job last year. However, it was reported at that time that Carter would prefer to stay in his role as Informa boss.

Given BT’s sensitive relationship with Ofcom, Carter’s career history is no doubt appealing to its board and shareholders.


6)      Ronan Dunne, formerly of O2 & Verizon

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Roland Dunne, former CEO of O2 and of Verizon's wireless and consumer group has also been named to Capacity as a potential successor to Jansen. The Irishman moved into a strategic advisor to the CEO at Verizon in January 2022 and following a September 2022 exit has filled a number of non-executive director and advisor roles at firms including Marks & Spencer’s and Glow Financial Services.

Whether Dunne has the intention to re-enter a CEO role is unclear, but he was also tied to the Vodafone job earlier this year, so could be considered an outside bet.


7)      Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach


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A slightly more left of field choice for CEO that was mentioned to Capacity was Clive Selley, who currently runs Openreach. Openreach were formerly a business unit of BT, responsible for the maintenance of the UK’s broadband infrastructure, but was forced into becoming a separate company by Ofcom in 2017. Despite still being a fully owned subsidiary of BT, this move was made to make Openreach act more impartially towards BT competitors.

Selley has been CEO of Openreach since 2016. Under Jansen’s leadership, Openreach’s targets for full fibre broadband have increased significantly, and according to Pescatore, “Openreach is in a much better place than when he joined”.

Openreach is a significant player in the UK market, as the largest digital infrastructure provider in the country. Given its significance and the political attention its full fibre rollout has received, its not impossible that Selley could be seen as a candidate to replace Jansen.

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