Lutz Schüler has been announced as the head of the combined VM and O2 UK, when it completes, with O2 boss apparently stepping aside.
The news had been leaked to Sky News just ahead of publication. What it says about the balance of power between the two partners in the joint venture is unclear, but companies generally have only one CEO, so something had to give. O2’s CFO Patricia Cobian will continue that role in the combined operation.
As if to emphasise how much of a 50-50 thing this JV remains, Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, and José Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez, CEO of Telefonica, issued a joint statement. “We are about to embark on an exciting new chapter for Virgin Media and O2, and Lutz and Patricia are the right leaders to deliver on our ambition to create the UK’s national connectivity champion. Together they will build a strong, diverse and dynamic team that will bring more choice, more value and world-class innovation to over 46 million fixed and mobile customers and the broader consumer and enterprise market.
“Lutz is a unique talent and a perfect fit for the new combined company. He has extensive experience in fixed and mobile and a fantastic track record at both Liberty and Telefonica driving transformation and growth. Together, Virgin Media and O2 will need to quickly capitalize on strategic opportunities in network expansion, digitalization, convergence, 5G and video – all areas where Lutz has a strong background and a clear vision. We couldn’t have a better leader steering us through these critical and exciting times.”
Schüler was COO of Telefonica’s O2 German subsidiary from 1998 to 2010, so fair enough. Cobian, meanwhile, led the post-merger integration planning of Telefonica Deutschland with ePlus. So, on paper at least, it’s hard to argue with these appointments. Alvarez-Pallete Lopez made a point of saying what a great job Evans, who will hang around until the deal closes, has done, which is nice.