Business Leader of the Year Finalist: Eric Hertz

By Helen Twose

These are tough times for doing business, but this week we celebrate those who are leading the way through the downturn. Every day we will feature the finalists for New Zealand Herald Business Leader of the Year. The winner will appear in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

Eric Hertz. Photo / Richard Robinson
Eric Hertz. Photo / Richard Robinson

Charmed by ads featuring Rhys Darby and given an alternative to Telecom and Vodafone, New Zealanders have flocked to new mobile network 2degrees.

Since the arrival of American chief executive Eric Hertz, just days out from the mobile network's launch last August, 2degrees has grabbed the hearts and, more importantly, the sim cards of half a million users.

Estimates by technology research consultancy IDC put 2degrees' market share at 9 per cent of the total mobile market.

That's around 458,000 New Zealanders connected to the new network.

It's also well ahead of analyst expectations that only 2 per cent of phone users would make the jump in the first year, and overseas experience that suggested a third entrant could expect to corner 6 per cent of the market.

It has made the biggest in-roads into the pre-pay market with a 13.3 per cent share, mainly from Vodafone's customer base.

Hertz replaced former chief executive Mike Reynolds.

Unconventionally, news of his appointment broke on internet site Wikipedia when an entry for the company was amended to reveal a major shareholder shake-up and the network's launch date.

At launch, Hertz promised to bring better value to the three-quarters of New Zealand mobile users on prepay.

Since then he has kept a low profile, his executive team fronting most major announcements.

Hertz has links with 2degrees' majority shareholders, US investment company Trilogy. He worked for its founders - John Stanton, Theresa Gillespie and Bradley Horwitz - at Western Wireless during the four years he was the company's chief operating officer.

In 30-plus years in the telco industry, he has been involved in everything from start-ups to running a multibillion-dollar business with 3000 staff.

On his appointment, Hertz told the Herald: "It's just the most fun where you are creating not only new services, but you're building a culture and a business. I think quite honestly it's an addiction to the adrenalin."

- NZ Herald

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