BT Retail chief quits for Cap Gemini

Danon: 'I like to be in charge, as you know' ? Verwaayen: 'He is very pushy, he's not shy'
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The Independent Online

Pierre Danon, who resigned abruptly yesterday as the chief executive of BT Retail, said the telecoms giant had "unfinished business" in securing stable future revenue streams, improving customer service and reducing costs.

Pierre Danon, who resigned abruptly yesterday as the chief executive of BT Retail, said the telecoms giant had "unfinished business" in securing stable future revenue streams, improving customer service and reducing costs.

Mr Danon said it would be "presumptuous" for BT to assume that recent quarter-on-quarter revenue growth was assured, given the uncertain regulatory and technological future the company faced.

He warned BT Retail would have to continue shedding jobs, with a further 11,000 to go on top of the 11,000 axed in the past three years, while BT's failure to become the industry's leader in customer service was his biggest regret.

Mr Danon, 48, will leave in the new year to become the chief operating officer of Cap Gemini, the Paris-based management consultant. He said he wanted the job because of the control it gave him compared with BT, where he runs just one-third of the business. His £829,000-a-year salary will also be increased by Cap Gemini. Mr Danon said: "I'm in charge of all operations of Cap Gemini. I like to be in charge, as you know."

BT was left in a palpable state of shock by the news. Ben Verwaayen, the company's group chief executive, said: "For us, it's a big loss." He refused to discuss Mr Danon's replacement, hinting much depended on how BT reorganised itself in the wake of Ofcom's recent regulatory review.

Both men denied any serious rift over the highly public debate about the future direction of BT's broadband strategy. Mr Verwaayen said: "I really want to be officially on the record to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Pierre. He is an out-of-the-box type of thinker. He is very pushy, he's not shy. It gives a fantastic combination to be a great colleague, a very great partner and a good friend."

Mr Danon said Mr Verwaayen was a "very straightforward" person, adding: "I go into his office and I say 'well Ben, I don't think this is a good idea'. We have a discussion, sometimes robust intellectually. It never lasts more than half an hour."

Mr Danon said he was approached by Cap Gemini and had been mulling the move for a month with his wife, and had decided to leave BT at the weekend. He informed Mr Verwaayen at 2pm on Wednesday with an announcement made yesterday morning.

At an impromptu press briefing at BT's headquarters, Mr Danon gave a frank assessment of his decision to leave BT and the challenges the company faced. He stressed BT was not a utility business and it was "childish" for City analysts to see it that way.

He said: "I'm saying we have done three quarters of growth in a row and therefore it's not luck, it's a fact, the strategy is working. I'm also saying, let's not mistake that there will be huge shocks for us, both positive and negative. It would be very presumptuous to say for sure the next results will be positive whatever happens."

Running just one-third of BT had left him frustrated because of the compromises necessary with other members of management. He said: "It gets you into discussions and compromises and lack of speed. When you have colleagues, when you need to negotiate, they have their own agendas, goals and styles. All executive jobs are full of frustrations. In the morning you feel like a hero and you have a sense of purpose and achievement. You feel like you can walk on water. Then, three hours after, you feel like you're a failure, nothing works and your best colleague is really irritating you."

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