Bross Exit = End of an Era

2:00 PM -- Remember 2004? The industry was starting to put the bubble years behind it, and there was a buzz about the development of next-generation networks (NGNs), with British carrier BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) among the most vocal NGN flag bearers. (See BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project.)

In June that year a team of BT executives unveiled the 21st Century Network (21CN) program, handed out technical and business specifications to multiple vendors, and talked of an all-IP vision that would transform BT's operations, cost base, and culture. Now, with the imminent departure of CTO Matt Bross, that core team of executives -– the 21CN 'Class of 2004' -– has dispersed. (See Bross Quits as BT's CTO.)

So what happened to them? Let's start at the top.

  • The CEO behind 21CN was Ben Verwaayen, who announced his departure in April 2008, left at the end of the following month, and, well, we all know where he ended up... warming Pat Russo's old chair. (See Verwaayen Takes the Helm at AlcaLu, The Diary of Ben V., Age 56, and Verwaayen Set to Leave BT.)

  • The executive who hit the road and extolled the virtues of 21CN at every opportunity (crowded conferences, dinner meetings, bus stops, you name it...) was Paul Reynolds, CEO of BT Wholesale and very possibly the tallest man in telecom (at least 7 feet tall without heels on by my reckoning).

    Reynolds left BT in September 2007 and headed to the other side of the world (don't read anything into that!) to become the tallest CEO at Telecom New Zealand Ltd. (NYSE: NZT; New Zealand: TEL), where he has initiated a 21CN-type transformation strategy (but with mobile assets as part of the mix) with a great deal of help from the equipment vendor now run by his former boss, Ben Verwaayen (but don't read anything into that!). (See Telecom NZ Launches 3G, AlcaLu Backhauls New Zealand, Telecom NZ Splits Up, Reynolds Leaving BT to Run TNZ, and 21CN Moves On.)

  • Then of course there's Matt Bross, who, following a number of executive and structural restructuring processes at BT, appeared to be increasingly sidelined in his role at CTO. Nearly everyone who has passed comment on Bross's departure from BT has said it was a decision they'd been expecting. Most of the private comments sent to EuroBlog about his departure also suggest BT will be a less interesting place without his drive, energy, and shocking neckties. (See 21C World Forum: It's a Tie!)

    What's next for Bross? That's a wait-and-see question for the time being. He's back in the U.S. so there are plenty of potential opportunities.

    Those three were the most high-profile and senior 21CN promoters, but there was another "Matt B." who was often heard extolling the NGN plan's virtues –- Matt Beal.

    The affable executive looked like he was destined for great things at BT, and even sported the title of BT Wholesale CTO at one point, but like other who had championed controversial Carrier Ethernet technology PBT (Provider Backbone Transport) during the 21CN planning process, Beal was shown the door in 2008 as a new, more MPLS-friendly brigade took up their posts at the British incumbent. (See BT Exec Exit and PBT Sidelined at BT.)

    Here, though, is a video reminder of Beal from when he was part of the 21CN set.

    Beal was last heard of at CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), where he was CTO and VP Network Engineering. That operator has just merged with Embarq Corp. (NYSE: EQ) to form CenturyLink, where Beal still has an office and an assistant (though we didn't get through to chat, unfortunately). (See CenturyTel, Embarq Merge.)

    That brings us to the end of our update, so... CLASS DISMISSED!!!

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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