John Drinnan

John Drinnan is the Media writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Telecom looks back to hire CEO for future

New Telecom chief executive and managing director Simon Moutter. Photo / NZ Herald
New Telecom chief executive and managing director Simon Moutter. Photo / NZ Herald

It's back to the future at Telecom: Simon Moutter returning as chief executive of the new slimline version of the company he left nearly four years ago.

Industry insiders say Telecom staff are "shocked" by the surprise appointment of Moutter, who has "a reputation as a hard taskmaster and someone who does not suffer fools gladly".

From July Moutter will be working alongside another colleague from the old days of Theresa Gattung's Telecom, and Gattung says he is a good choice.

Former Telecom company secretary Mark Verbiest was appointed chairman of the $4.5 billion company in November last year, also a surprise within the industry.

Gattung has applauded Moutter's appointment.

Some industry players had guessed the role would go to Chris Quin, head of the Gen-i division, who was seen as part of the new culture established by Paul Reynolds.

But instead Telecom has gone back to its past, in what a source said would be a big push to improve returns to investors.

TUANZ chief executive Paul Brislen said that with their past associations the two men would bring "a lot of baggage" when they reunite.

A lot of time had passed and Telecom was now a very different company, Brislen said.

The Telecom networks company Chorus - with a market valuation of about $1.3 billion - has been split off and the market is more tightly regulated.

But Brislen had received a lot of calls from "shocked" industry players who were wary Moutter's appointment would lead to a return to the bad old days.

Moutter's biggest challenge would be putting the past behind him, Brislen said.

He had been CEO at Auckland International airport for three and a half years.

"But a lot of people in the industry remember them for defending the indefensible at Telecom."

David Cunliffe, the former Telecommunications Minister who brought Telecom to heel, is confident the firm is now customer-oriented.

And Verbiest says a lot has changed.

"Delivering for customers is an absolutely key part of Simon's remit," he said.

The two executives who kept change at bay - Moutter and Verbiest - are leading a changed company.

Brislen said that as company secretary Verbiest had a key role working against Commerce Commission challenges.

As chief operating officer Moutter had been known as "the enforcer" inside the company.

Verbiest rejected a suggestion the reunion signalled a return to past approaches.

"That was several years ago, and Simon has been away from Telecom for many years, as have I. This is a substantially new board, and Simon's candidacy was treated on its merits which were many."

Auckland International Airport chairman Joan Withers said Moutter had achieved a lot as chief executive, particularly in securing new routes at a time when the aviation industry was retracting.

Telecom shares rose 1.8 per cent to $2.55 while Auckland Airport shares fell 0.2 per cent to $2.51 yesterday.

SIMON MOUTTER

Age: 51.

2004-now: Chief executive of Auckland International Airport.
1999-2008: Variety of roles including chief operating officer at Telecom, managing most parts of the business at one time or another.
* Preceded by 13 years in the electricity and gas industries.
* Has a master's degree in engineering.
Interests: Former motocross enthusiast, stake in a racehorse.

Pay at Telecom

* He will receive a base salary of $1.35m, plus incentive payments. There is an annual short-term performance incentive of $750,000 if he meets the targets set by the board. He will also receive shares to a value of $600,000 for achievement of those targets.
* The total value of the incentive payment and share grant may increase if Moutter significantly exceeds the targets and he will also be eligible for $1m in share rights annually.

- NZ Herald

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