New BT chief seeks growth across business

NEWLY APPOINTED BT chief executive Gavin Patterson has told City A.M. that the telecoms giant is in safe hands, despite yesterday’s leadership change wiping £800m off the company’s stock market value.

His predecessor, Ian Livingston, yesterday unexpectedly announced he will quit in September to take a peerage and become an unpaid trade minister in the coalition government.

“I’m sad to be losing him [but] it’s an inspired appointment,” said Patterson, who is currently boss of BT Retail and leading attempts to take on Sky in the pay-TV sports market. “There’s going to be a managed hand-over and I can focus on ensuring BT Sport launches successfully.”

Lawrence Sugarman, an analyst at Liberum, praised Patterson’s retail and marketing skills but said the new boss is “not everybody’s cup of tea” and warned “some fund managers may be wary of him”.

“There will be some fund managers who see the fact I started my career in marketing as a concern,” Patterson, 44, said in response. “But any analyst who follows BT Retail will know I have consistently delivered my numbers.”

Referring to yesterday’s “relatively modest decline in share price”, he said investors should trust him to grow the firm’s wholesale and global services divisions, not just retail.

PROFILE: IAN LIVINGSTON
It’s not been a bad year for outgoing BT chief executive Ian Livingston. Not only has he shaken up the pay-TV world by handing free football coverage to all BT broadband users and been offered a ministerial position by the government but his beloved Celtic FC won the Scottish Premier League at a canter.
Livingston, who was born in Glasgow and educated at the elite Kelvinside Academy, joined the football club’s board in 2007, shortly before taking the top job at telecoms giant BT Group at the age of 43. Despite the gruelling job, he still finds the time to head back to Scotland and attend matches.
The son of a doctor, he graduated with a degree in economics from Manchester University and eventually joined electronics company Dixons in 1991. Just six years later he became one of the youngest directors in the FTSE 100 when he became the retailer’s finance chief at the age of 32.
After joining BT in 2004 he swiftly rose through the ranks to take the top job in 2008. The soon-to-be Lord Livingston inherited a company that had an enormous user base but was also cumbersome and its stock was stagnating. He announced an ambitious broadband investment plan, cut costs and increased the share price by 44 per cent.
Livingston will replace ex-HSBC chairman Lord Green as trade minister in December. Green will then leave the government.