Police are investigating the presumed suicide of Swisscom chief executive Carsten Schloter amid indications that the head of Switzerland’s telecoms giant suffered from permanent stress and had become dangerously addicted to his smartphone since the break up of his marriage in 2009.
German-born Mr Schloter joined Swisscom over a decade ago as head of its mobile phone division. He became CEO in 2006 and subsequently turned the company into Switzerland’s leading telecoms company, controversially buying out the Italian broadband network Fastweb in 2007.
On Tuesday the popular 49-year-old was found dead at his home near Freiburg. Police refused to reveal full details but suggested he had killed himself: “The first elements of the investigation make us think it was a suicide,” said Freiburg police spokesman Pierre-André Waeber.
Mr Schloter’s marriage ended in 2009 and he was separated from his three young children. He has also admitted suffering from stress inflicted on him by the mobile device that helped catapult him to success: his smartphone.
Excerpts from candid interviews Mr Schloter gave to the Swiss media this year and in 2012 were published in Switzerland’s Handelszeitung newspaper yesterday and provided some disturbing insights into the pressures the Swisscom boss appears to have been under.
“Modern communications devices have their downside,” Mr Schloter told Switzerland’s Schweiz am Sonntag in May, “The most dangerous thing is to fall into a mode of permanent activity and continuously consult one’s smartphone to see whether any new mails have come in. Everyone should switch off their mobile phone from time to time.”
Mr Schloter was asked whether he could switch off his phone: “No, I must say that I find it increasingly difficult to calm down and to reduce tempo. Perhaps that has something to do with age,” he told the newspaper.
Referring to the lack of “windows” in which he could be free of work and family responsibilities, he said: “ It makes you feel as if you are being strangled. I always have the feeling that there should be less responsibilities.”
In another interview last year Mr Schloter admitted that he suffered from an “enormous amount” of inner tension. “Relaxed? I probably never have been,” he said. The Swiss media surmised yesterday that Mr Schloter’s enthusiasm for mountaineering and mountain biking were an attempt to work off the pressure of his corporate life.
In an interview published in March last year, Mr Schloter admitted that he remained deeply upset by the break-up of his marriage. “You see, I have three small children. I only see them every two weeks. This always makes me feel guilty. I have the feeling I have done something which is not right,” he said.
Despite his personal problems, Mr Schloter was regarded as a first-rate businessman. “Swisscom has lost an excellent CEO and Swiss business a defining personality,” said Swiss Communications Minister Doris Leuthard.
The Swiss government is Swisscom’s majority owner. Urs Schäppi, Swisscom’s deputy head is to replace Mr Schloter on an interim basis.