So Tough at the Top

Well, he said he was going to step down late in 2003, and Sir Christopher Gent, knighted by the Queen for services to British industry (see Vodafone Turns Deep Red, Focuses on Cost Control), is sticking to his word. His replacement on the throne at Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) has already been announced (see Vodafone Names New CEO). The new CEO of the world's biggest mobile operator group, as of next July, will be Arun Sarin, already a non-executive director of the group. We don't know much about him personally, but he sounds like a gas! Anyhoo, the boy Gent could have stayed on, but it seems he was tiring of the abuse he has been receiving from the media, according to Vodafone insiders. Indeed, his chairman, Lord Somethingorother of Thingamabob, referred to the alleged harsh treatment back in September (see Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones…). We can't say we have ever witnessed anything resembling harsh treatment here at Unstrung, and even if there was the odd word or two... well, surely that comes with the territory (and the mindboggling salary and bonus schemes -- see Gent's Golden Shower).

We never even saw anybody say, out loud at least, that letting Groupe Cegetel, and hence number-two French mobile operator SFR, slip from his grasp while principal shareholder Vivendi Universal was weighed down with debt and corporate restructuring issues was a bit of a cock-up. Especially as adding the French operator to the majority-controlled fold would have counted as a massive coup, boosted group revenues, and added to the company's economies of scale (see All Eyes on France and Vodafone Loses SFR Battle). However, it's not like Gent hasn't built a business that generates significant amounts of cash (see Vodafone's Data Barometer), and the confirmation of his departure from the hot seat was not met with glee by the financial markets. Vodafone's shares dipped today, though only by 1.6 percent to $17.81. Obviously, this is only a minor tribute. We will take time to properly appreciate Sir Chris's contribution to the wireless world closer to his date of departure. Any anecdotes from the past few years will be gratefully received, of course.

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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