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Vallance quits BT

Replaced by Bland BBC man

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Updated BT's battered chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, has resigned after months of pressure from shareholders to step down.

The man with his roots firmly in the good old GPO (General Posts Office) days said he would have jumped sooner had BT been able to find a suitable replacement.

Sir Ian will be replaced by Sir Christopher Bland, the current head of the BBC, who will carry on in both jobs until a replacement is found for him at the Beeb. (note for later: couldn't they just swap jobs?)

Sir Iain has until Tuesday (May 1st) to clear his desk although he will stay on in a consulting role as "president emeritus" until July 2002 - the date he was due to retire.

One report early this morning suggested that champagne corks would be popping in the City on the news that this limpet-like head of BT has finally gone.

Financial newswire, AFX, reports that Sir Iain's decision to step down could be linked to shareholders coughing up more cash for the debt-laden business.

However, solving BT's £30 billion debt problem is not as simple as claiming such a highly prized scalp - if only it were.

In a statement Sir Iain said: "I have been on the Board of BT for 20 years and its chairman since 1987.

"During that time BT has grown to be an international company and has moved into the new wave communication sectors of mobile and Internet.

"We have world class technologies and an unparalleled international reputation for our research and development work.

"BT is a great, resilient company with committed, professional people.

"For some time now I have felt it right that I should stand down once we could find an able successor.

"I am delighted we have now done so and I look forward to maintaining my links with BT alongside both Christopher and Peter Bonfield, CE0, with whom I have hugely enjoyed working for more than five years," he said.

The warmth with which Sir Iain refers to his CEO is testament to friendship and mutual respect both men had for one another - clearly quashing stories that the two men haven't spoken to one another for years.

Indeed, in the same statement, Sir Peter said: "Iain's contribution to BT and the industry has been enormous.

"I thank him for the excellent support he has given me as CEO and look forward to working with Christopher in the next phase of rapid change in our company."

Now does that sound like the kind of thing these guys would say if they didn't get on and even allegedly briefed the press against one another? Absolutely not.

Now that Sir Iain's gone, experts reckon Sir Peter won't be far behind. ®

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