BT denies boardroom rift was behind chairman's resignation

Kalyeena Makortoff
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

BT has denied that a boardroom rift was behind the resignation of its chairman last week, after a report suggested its chief executive had threatened to step down unless Jan du Plessis was replaced.

The telecoms company has countered claims that Plessis’ plan to retire from the role after just three years was linked to a bust-up with Philip Jansen, who was reportedly frustrated at the pace of change at BT under the chairman’s leadership.

In a market announcement, BT said: “There has been no misalignment between the board and executive management over the company’s strategy.”

It comes after Sky News, citing sources, said the chief executive was ready to resign himself unless Plessis was replaced by someone who was more swift in executing BT’s strategy.

“The chairman throughout his tenure has demonstrated strong leadership of the company, been extremely supportive of management and any suggestion that he has impeded the transformation of BT is without foundation,’” BT said. “We are very sorry he will be leaving.”

Jansen wants to accelerate BT’s shift to fibre broadband and 5G networks. He has also discussed the possibility of selling a stake in Openreach, which controls most of the UK’s broadband network, saying last year he was “open minded” about a partial sale once a regulatory review into full-fibre networks has been completed next year.

Plessis, who hired Jansen from WorldPay where he was co-chief executive, announced his departure on 1 March, despite having reportedly asked Jansen to reconsider.

The chairman will retire from the £700,000-a-year role once a successor is found later this year. Plessis is well known across corporate Britain, having chaired Rio Tinto, SAB Miller and British American Tobacco. He has also served on the boards of Lloyds and Marks & Spencer.