Gavin Patterson, the marketer who made it to the top, to exit BT

Gavin Patterson, the marketer who made it to the top, to exit BT

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of the BT Group, will be stepping down later this year.

BT Group's board has commenced a search to identify his successor and expects to have one in place during the second half of the year. Until then, Patterson (pictured) will continue as chief executive. 

The telco giant has been going through a rough patch. Last month, BT said it planned to cut 12% of its workforce, or 13,000 jobs, over the next three years to reduce costs by £1.5bn. This was on the back of an expected 2% drop in revenue for the 2018/19 financial year.

Members of the BT Board have now said they are looking for a "shake-up" at the company, with a replacement chief executive likely to be an outsider, according to the BBC's Today programme.

'Patterson has been bold but is a victim of City impatience'

Gemma Greaves, chief executive of The Marketing Society, came forward with support for Patterson: "The problems Gavin has had with BT Openreach and with the regulator date back into the history of BT as an old-fashioned nationalised provider of the nation’s landlines.

"There are clearly still many structural problems in BT that date from this past, and Gavin has also been bold in tackling the need to slim down the organisation. But the City is always impatient for profit growth so he has become a victim of this."

It is Patterson's marketer background that has driven his decision to launch BT Sport and acquire EE, Greaves added. "In doing this, Gavin has got BT back on the front foot and made it a successful contender in the growing markets it needs to be in. We absolutely see the positives about Gavin’s time as CEO of BT not the negatives, and I am sure he will re-appear in another top job soon."

In a statement this morning, BT chairman Jan du Plessis said: "The Board is fully supportive of the strategy recently set out by Gavin and his team. The broader reaction to our recent results announcement has though demonstrated to Gavin and me that there is a need for a change of leadership to deliver this strategy."

For the remainder of this term, Patterson will continue to be paid on the same basis, but will no longer be receiving the 2018 Incentive Share Plan award described in the company's Annual Report.

'Unusual for marketer to lead FTSE 100 company'

Patterson, who was appointed chief executive in 2013, was a former Procter & Gamble marketer who moved on to hold a managing director position at Telewest Communications.

He joined BT in 2004 and rose to chief executive of BT Retail and a board member of the telecoms group before his appointment to the top job

"It is always good to see a marketer make it to the chief executive role," Phil Smith, director general of ISBA, noted. "Unlike the US it’s very unusual to have a marketer at the top of a FTSE 100 company. Gavin has always been a big supporter of the marketing industry, not least in his role as president of the Advertising Association. He has led huge change at BT in his 10 years there and I look forward to seeing his next career move."

Commenting on his departure, Patterson said: "It’s been an honour to lead BT since 2013, and serve as a member of the Board for the last 10 years.

"Throughout that time I’ve been immensely proud of what we’ve achieved, in particular, the transformation of the business in recent years with the launch of BT Sport, the purchase and integration of EE, and the agreement to create greater independence for Openreach."

Cilla Snowball, group chairman and chief executive of AMV BBDO, BT's creative agency for 14 years, said that throughout Patterson's tenure, the BT brand and the development and marketing of the brand has always been front and centre of his business strategy, along with "his relentless and resolute focus on innovation and talent".

"He sets a high standard for everything and everyone, especially himself. He has built a very strong team around him over the years and he has both the courage and the vision to make bold decisions. BT Sport and EE embody his vision and his legacy perfectly," she said to Campaign.

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