Vestberg to head the ‘V-team’ as new CEO of Verizon
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 the company.
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 shareholder requirements”.
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 US.
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 Verizon’s platforms.”
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