Former BT chairman Jan du Plessis knighted for services to telecoms

The ex-boardroom regular has held positions on boards including Marks and Spencer, British American Tobacco, Rio Tinto and SAB Miller.

Simon Neville
Friday 31 December 2021 22:30
Jan du Plessis has been knighted in the New Year Honours list (BT/PA)
Jan du Plessis has been knighted in the New Year Honours list (BT/PA)

The former chairman of telecoms giant BT and the Government’s preferred choice to chair the UK’s accounting watchdog has received a knighthood in the New Year Honours list.

Jan du Plessis is honoured for services to telecoms and business, having overseen negotiations with regulators of BT’s full fibre broadband rollout.

The South African-born businessman, who spent most of his career working in the UK, told the PA news agency: “Especially as an immigrant who first came to the country some 40 years ago, it is a tremendous honour to have my business career recognised in this way.

“However, the improvements we have seen across BT’s business over the last four years are attributable to the dedication and hard work of thousands of BT and Openreach colleagues, who have worked tirelessly to improve the company’s service to its customers and indeed the country, especially since the onset of the pandemic.”

Jan du Plessis has held board positions at several companies (Mike Abrahams/Rio Tinto/PA

Mr du Plessis has been a firm fixture in boardrooms for 17 years, holding non-executive roles across companies including Marks and Spencer, British American Tobacco SAB Miller Rio Tinto and latterly BT.

He announced his departure from the £700,000-a-year BT job in March not long after an agreement was struck with regulator Ofcom over future costs relating to the £12 billion broadband rollout.

BT was forced to deny reports that there had been a rift between him and chief executive Philip Jansen over the speed of transformation at the company.

Since leaving BT it was announced last week that he was the Government’s preferred candidate to chair the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

The watchdog oversees auditors and accounting firms in the UK and sets corporate governance rules.

But the FRC has faced heavy scrutiny in recent years over its failure to crack down on the dominance of the Big Four accounting giants – KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte – especially in the light of several high-profile company collapses where auditors have been criticised.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said at the time of unveiling Mr du Plessis as his preferred candidate: “With direct experience leading some of the UK’s most prominent companies, Jan is perfectly placed to ensure strong oversight of UK plc.

“Restoring public confidence in audit and corporate governance will be crucial to our recovery from the pandemic, and I hope to work with Jan towards this goal.”

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