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Optical/IP

End of a Bland Era

9:00 AM -- Sir Christopher Bland is a hard act to follow. He has been the chairman of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) since May 2001 and has helped transform a debt-laden, moribund telco into a diversified service provider that at least stands a chance of surviving the current telecom overhaul.

And Bland's handling of financial analysts at earnings presentations was always a joy -- a few standup comedians could learn a few tricks from Bland, and BT's CEO Ben Verwaayen, about dealing with an uppity audience.

Now he's leaving (as planned) in September this year, and will be replaced by Sir Michael Rake, "one of the world’s most experienced and influential accountants." (See BT Names Next Chairman.)

Not only has Bland set the bar pretty high for Rake, but the new man will likely need to start thinking straightaway about the future of BT's senior management team, as Verwaayen has been BT's CEO since January 2002, and is not expected to be at the helm come 2009. He, too, has been instrumental in BT's turnaround, and could be tough to replace.

Some, of course, will say that Bland and Verwaayen will be glad to be out of the British incumbent by 2010, when BT's senior team will be dealing with the later stages of the carrier's 21CN next generation network rollout, and its impact on the U.K. telecom sector and economy in general.

In the meantime, we noted in Monday's European news roundup that Sir Michael's appointment as BT chairman would "no doubt inspire countless newspaper employment timelines with the headline 'Rake's Progress'." Well, a quick search for "Rake's Progress" and BT this morning generates a disappointing single result, courtesy of Forbes.com, but it's "early doors," as they say in theatrical circles.

— Ray Le Maistre, British Bulldog Editor, Light Reading

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