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BT has appointed Allison Kirkby as the first female chief executive in its history, saying she will take over from Philip Jansen by the end of next January as the telecoms group embarks on a cost-cutting drive.
Kirkby, who has been a non-executive director at BT since 2019, joins from Sweden-based telecoms group Telia, which operates across the Nordic and Baltic regions. She will be one of only nine women leading FTSE 100 companies when she assumes the role.
The appointment comes as the former state telecoms monopoly begins the biggest cost-cutting drive since it was privatised in the 1980s. It plans to reduce its 130,000-strong workforce by as much as 40 per cent by 2030.
Kirkby, who has held roles in the telecoms sector since 2010, said she was “fully supportive of our strategy and am excited about leading [BT] into its next phase of development, as we grow to support customers, shareholders and the UK economy”.
Jansen will be available to support the handover until March 2024, when he will retire from executive life, BT said. Adam Crozier, BT’s chair, said that given Kirkby’s existing role on the board, “we are confident we will have an orderly leadership transition and handover of responsibilities”.
In May, BT announced it would cut between 40,000 and 55,000 jobs, including employees and third-party contractors, over the next seven years. The deployment of generative artificial intelligence, which Jansen hailed as a “huge opportunity”, will replace about 10,000 jobs.
Patrick Drahi’s Altice increased its shareholding in BT to almost 25 per cent in May. However, the Franco-Israeli billionaire’s telecoms investment group said at the time that it had no plans to make an offer for BT.
BT’s share price has fallen 25 per cent in the past 12 months and 46 per cent since Jansen took the helm in February 2019.
Shares were down 1.9 per cent in morning trading.
Kirkby — who has previously worked at UK-based Virgin Media, Danish telco TDC and Sweden’s largest challenger telco Tele2 — has led Telia since May 2020, where she oversaw a period of major transformation “and a return to growth”, Telia said in a statement on Monday.
On her departure, Kirkby said: “After almost 10 years of living apart from my family, and the unique opportunity now offered to me in the UK, I have carefully considered and decided to leave Telia and take on a new challenge.”
In line with BT’s remuneration policy, which shareholders approved this month, Kirkby will be paid an annual salary of £1.1mn, with a performance-linked bonus of 120 per cent of salary, half of which “will be deferred into BT Group shares for a further three years with no additional performance conditions”, the company said.