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BT hands top job to Retail chief

Chairman praises journey from troubled to troubling

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BT has promoted its Retail unit boss Ian Livingston to CEO of the entire group. He'll succeed Ben Verwaayen at the end of May.

Livingston has long been seen as CEO-in-waiting at BT.

He inherits a company described by BT chairman Sir Michael Rake today as "thriving", but described by a major consumer survey as the worst phone company in the UK. The online YouGov poll for uSwitch of more than 11,000 people rated BT bottom for customer satisfation on nine different measures. Sky came top.

BT's share price has tumbled nearly 30 per cent since November and it is undergoing massive internal turmoil as it struggles to restructure and meet its targets for the deployment of the 21CN next generation backhaul.

Rake said: "Ben has been an exceptional CEO whose courage and leadership has transformed BT from being a deeply troubled organisation into a thriving business with global capability and a clear strategy for the future. He has been instrumental in restoring pride in BT."

Dutchman Verwaayen joined BT in 2002 from communications hardware giant Lucent. He said: "Ian Livingston will lead the company from strength to strength when he takes over as CEO in June. He is a great guy with a fantastic record of business achievement."

As boss of BT Retail, Ian Livingston presided over the secret and allegedly illegal advertising profiling of tens of thousands of BT broadband customers in 2006 and 2007, in partnership with Phorm. The action has been branded "disgraceful" by MP Don Foster.

BT said today Livingston had returned the unit to growth and increased profitability.

Livingston said: "[Ben Verwaayen's] informality and approachable style have won him the admiration and respect of everyone in the business. BT is a great company with a strong history and an even more exciting future."

Livingston joined BT as finance director in 2002 after a stint as finance director at Dixons. ®

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