Vodafone confirms Kleisterlee as new chairman

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The Independent Online

Vodafone has confirmed the outgoing boss of electronics giant Philips will succeed Sir John Bond, who was the subject of a shareholder revolt, when he steps down in the summer.

The blue-chip mobile phone group announced yesterday that Gerard Kleisterlee would become chairman when Sir John quits after the company's annual general meeting in July. The news, which follows a succession-planning process that has lasted a year, comes as the company prepares to release its third-quarter results, due today.

Mr Kleisterlee is due to step down from his role as president and chief executive of Philips at the end of next month. On 1 April, he will be appointed a non-executive at Vodafone.

Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone, paid tribute to Sir John, a former chairman and chief executive of HSBC, saying the company had benefited from his leadership and advice "in a time of evolution for Vodafone". He added: "I personally am very grateful to him for his constant support and personal advice since becoming chief executive, during a phase of extraordinary economic and industry changes."

The company had called in headhunter MWM Consulting even before the shareholder uprising in the run-up to last July's AGM. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTTP) called for Sir John's departure, demanding a "rejuvenation of the board". This was principally due to Sir John's support of former chief executive Arun Sarin's deal, merger andacquisition strategy, which the OTTP called "disastrous".

One of those deals is causing headaches for Vodafone's management at the moment. Tensions have frayed with its Indian joint-venture partner Essar. Vodafone has petitioned an Indian court to prevent Essar from divesting part of its stake. There is a spat over the value of its 33 per cent stake, and yesterday Vodafone brought in Goldman Sachs and Essar called on Standard Chartered to value it.