BT names Allison Kirkby as its new CEO

Incoming BT CEO Allison Kirkby.

Incoming BT CEO Allison Kirkby.

  • BT’s current head honcho, Philip Jansen, is stepping down
  • The UK national operator has named current Telia boss Allison Kirkby as its new CEO
  • Kirkby is already a BT board member
  • She will take over by the end of January 2024 at the latest

UK national operator BT has announced that Allison Kirkby, the current chief executive at Telia, will be its next CEO: She will take over by the end of January 2024 from the incumbent Philip Jansen, who announced his impending departure on 10 July

Kirkby, who hails from Scotland, was one of the favourites to take over from Jansen and will become the telco’s first female CEO.  She is an experienced and highly respected telco executive who already knows BT very well, as she has been a member of BT’s board of directors since March 2019. 

Kirkby has been the CEO at Telia since early 2020, during which time she has restructured the Nordic operator’s portfolio and put an increasing emphasis on the telco’s sustainability strategy. Before taking that role, she had been the CEO of Denmark’s TDC Group and CEO of another Nordic operator Tele2, which she initially joined as CFO in 2014. 

She will take on the BT role, with an annual salary of £1.1m plus benefits, by the end of January next year at the latest, though Kirkby could well be at the helm before that as Jansen is reportedly keen to exit the UK operator as quickly as possible and is believed to have signalled his desire to exit some time ago – see BT’s CEO Philip Jansen throws in the towel.

“I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the next chief executive of BT Group,” stated Kirkby. “BT is such an important company for the UK and our many customers, both in the UK and internationally, and is uniquely placed to help everyone benefit from the rapid advances in digitalisation. Our products and services have never been more important to how our customers live and work, and thanks to the significant investment BT is putting into digital infrastructure and in the modernisation of its services, I see us playing an even more important role going forward. Having been a member of the BT Group board for the past four years, I’m fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading it into its next phase of development, as we grow to support customers, shareholders and the UK economy.”

BT has just reported a 4% year-on-year increase in fiscal first-quarter revenues to £5.16bn and a 5% increase in adjusted earnings to just over £2bn. At the heart of its strategy is the fibre broadband network being rolled out by its quasi-autonomous wholesale access infrastructure division Openreach. That fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network now reaches 11 million premises, about 44% of its target of 25 million, and has 3.5 million active fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections, of which BT’s retail services operation accounts for 2 million. 

So Kirkby will inherit the BT crown, but that means other hopefuls, particularly any internal candidates, will be disappointed. What will this appointment and the change at the top mean for BT’s current day-to-day executive team lineup? A new CEO usually reshapes the executive team and often brings in trusted allies to help shape and implement new strategic goals, so it’ll be interesting to see whether big names, such as consumer chief Marc Allera, chief digital and innovation officer Harmeen Mehta, BT Business boss Bas Burger and chief security and networks officer Howard Watson survive and thrive in the Kirkby era. 

Of course, Kirkby has other big names to deal with too, especially Patrick Drahi, who is thought to be on the verge of increasing his current 24.5% holding in BT to 29.9% – just short of the threshold of 30% at which a shareholder is legally obliged to make a formal offer to buy the entire company. 

And while Kirkby’s appointment is good news for BT, it leaves Telia with a massive executive hole to fill.

On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Allison for her leadership, vision and strong focus on value creation over the past three years,” stated Telia chairman Lars-Johan Jarnheimer. “She has served during an important and challenging time in Telia’s history and made a positive and lasting impact through a relentless focus on driving a clear growth agenda, digitalisation of our operations and increasing simplicity throughout the organisation. The board and I regret that Allison has chosen to leave the company, but we wish her success in her future career. I am very happy that Allison stays in her current position until 31 January 2024, at the latest, to ensure we keep up the momentum in strategy execution, while the board is starting the recruitment process to find the new CEO for Telia.”

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV