Lutz Schuler and Patricia Cobian land top jobs in Telefonica/O2 JV

09 April 2021 | Melanie Mingas

Cover

The chief executive and CFO who will head the 50/50 joint venture (JV) created by the merger of Virgin Media and O2, have been named.

Originally assessed by the European Commission, since Brexit the merger is now subject to regulatory approvals in the UK. However regulatory scrutiny isn't holding up the appointment of senior execs and this week both the chief executive and chief financial officer of the new venture have been named.

Lutz Schuler, the CEO of Virgin Media, has been named as the chief executive. With 27 years of industry experience under his belt, Schuler started his career at T-Mobile Deutschland in 1994 later serving in various senior management roles, including COO for Telefonica’s O2 German subsidiary from 1998 to 2010.

He joined Virgin Media in 2018 as COO and has been CEO since June 2019. He is credited with driving 1 Gig broadband, the rollout of new entertainment and smart Wifi services and the market’s first fixed-mobile bundles.

He will be joined on the senior leadership team by Patricia Cobian, who has held the position of CFO of O2 since 2016. Cobian previously held several senior management roles with Telefonica including director for business development in Telefonica Europe. She also led the post-merger integration planning of Telefonica Deutschland with ePlus. Before joining Telefonica, Cobian was a consultant with the TMT and Corporate Finance practices of McKinsey & Company.

As Capacity reported in January, the Canadian-owned telecoms infrastructure company BAI Communications has hired Telefónica O2 UK’s Brendan O’Reilly to become its global CTO.

Should the merger be approved, both parties will own a 50% stake in the new venture.

Mark Evans, the current CEO of O2, has not officially been appointed to a position in the new company and, in a statement, Telefonica thanked him for his "exceptional leadership".

José Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez, CEO of Telefonica, said: “I would like to place on record my appreciation for the exceptional leadership of Mark Evans, the current CEO of O2.

"Since his appointment in 2016, the business has established itself as the UK’s number one network by scale and customer satisfaction and delivered five consecutive years of profit growth. Valuation grew by £3bn, making this deal possible. He has also played an instrumental role for the Telefónica Group and our strategy. Mark will remain in his post until completion.”

Evans himself said: “I am proud to have served Telefonica, O2, its employees and customers, especially as CEO over the last five years, and have enjoyed the journey immensely. It has been both a personal and professional honour to have established O2 as the UK’s number one mobile network and most compelling brand. I’m confident the joint venture I helped bring to the table will come to fruition and go on to establish itself as the national connectivity champion the UK deserves. In Liberty Global, Telefonica has found a first-class partner, and together their brand portfolio and their remarkable employees have an exciting future ahead.”