Vodafone CEO has been let go

Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone Group Plc, will step down at the end of 2022 after the board decided to let him go amid underperformance. He failed to reverse a years-long slide in the telecommunication giant’s share price and potential mergers with major rivals failed to materialize. Margherita Della Valle, currently CFO, will do the job on an interim basis while the board seeks a replacement.

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Read has been with Vodafone for more than twenty years and has been CEO for the past four years, and will stay on until the end of March on a consulting basis. “I agreed with the board that now is the right moment to hand over to a new leader who can build on Vodafone’s strengths and capture the significant opportunities ahead,” Read said in a statement.

Since Read took over at the helm of Vodafone in October 2018 the company’s share price has fallen by 44 percent, which has led to mass job cuts and debt reductions. His biggest win during the tenure will undoubtedly be the move to spin out and list the company’s tens of thousands of mobile masts, just selling a stake in Frankfurt-listed listed Vantage Towers AG to a private equity consortium in a deal that valued the business $16.3 billion last month.

After the announcement shares rose about 2 percent on the London Stock Exchange to 92.90 pence, still near 25 year lows for the business.

Vodafone has never appointed an external CEO, so Read’s possible successor may already have some link with the company given its complexity, Berenberg analyst Carl Murdock-Smith said in a note following the announcement. He mentioned Stephen Carter, CEO of Informa Plc, and who already serves on the board as a possible replacement. Carter was previously heading up the UK telecom regulator Ofcom. Another possibility, according to Murdock-Smith, is Nick Jeffery, who was previously Vodafone’s UK head and left the company last year to run US-based Frontier Communications.