Burns to step down from Veon after three years at the top

Burns to step down from Veon after three years at the top

01 May 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Ursula Burns is to step down as chairman of Veon at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders on 1 June.

Burns (pictured) has been with the company for three years, becoming non-executive chairman in July 2017, a year after the group agreed to pay a total of US$835 million in settlement fees to US and Netherlands authorities after admitting it had paid huge bribes to enter the Uzbekistan market ten years earlier.

“The past three years with Veon has been an extraordinary experience and I am pleased with what we have been able to accomplish,” she said. “The company is well positioned with a strong executive team leading our strategy and operations.”

At the same time three other board directors have said they will step down: Guillaume Bacuvier, Sir Julian Horn-Smith and Guy Laurence.

Burns has led the company through a key phase of its transformation, including the sale of its Italian operations to CK Hutchison, the successful conclusion of compliance monitorship with US legal authorities, and the appointment of Kaan Terzioglu and Sergi Herrero as co-CEOs in February 2020. Veon also bought the shares in Global Telecom Holding, based in Egypt, that it didn’t already own.

Board member Mikhail Fridman, who founded Russia’s Alfa Group and LetterOne, which are significant telecoms investors, said: “We have been fortunate to have Ursula as chairman; her leadership, perspective and integrity have had an important impact on the company and we thank her for building such a strong team and for positioning Veon for the future.”

New candidates for the Veon board at next month’s meeting are Hans Holger Albrecht, former CEO of Millicom International Cellular; Mariano De Beer, former CCO of Telefónica UK;

Peter Derby, former COO of the US Securities and Exchange Commission; Amos Genish, former CEO of TIM; and Stephen Pusey, former group CTO of Vodafone.

Burns said: “The new members of the board bring a set of skills and expertise which will support the company’s continued expansion into new areas such as digital financial services.”

Burns trained as a mechanical engineer and then spent most of her career at Xerox, starting as a new graduate in 1980s and leaving in 2017 as chairman of the board, having also been CEO for many years. She was the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company.