Tom Alexander, the head of the largest mobile phone group in the UK, shocked the market yesterday as he resigned without warning to spend more time with his family.
Everything Everywhere (EE), created last year though the merger of Orange and T-Mobile UK, announced that board member Olaf Swantee, who had tempted Mr Alexander out of retirement in 2008, was to replace him.
Mr Alexander will step down as chief executive of EE, which had 27.7 million customers in the UK, at the end of August. He will advise the company until the end of the year. While he will be paid for his role, he said there was no severance package. "There is never an easy time to leave a company that you care deeply for," he said. "But, for personal reasons, I feel now is a good moment to step back." He added it was a good time to "rediscover" his family who live in Somerset.
Mr Alexander set up Virgin Mobile and floated it before taking a "career break" in 2006. He joined Orange two years later. Before the merger, Mr Swantee was more senior to Mr Alexander, running Orange's operations across Europe. He is currently France Telecom's executive vice-president.
Both dismissed talk that the parent companies France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom had become frustrated over the financial performance, saying that the forthcoming results would show EE had hit its targets.
Separately, EE deputy chief executive Richard Moat, who was chief executive of T-Mobile before the merger, is understood to be in talks to tap the bond markets this year after the two parent companies called for EE to be self funding by the end of the year.
A spokesman said the company was looking at "all options" over financing.