Liam Dann

Business editor of the NZ Herald

Sad loss won't end mission

US board members on their way to NZ to ensure continuity and future of 2degrees.

2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz died after his plane crashed into the sea off Kawhia on Saturday.
2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz died after his plane crashed into the sea off Kawhia on Saturday.

The tragic death of chief executive Eric Hertz will not derail the progress of 2degrees, which now has more than one million customers and 25 per cent of the mobile market, says Telecommunications Users Association chief Paul Brislen.

"They're going to keep going. As tragic as this is, they are not reliant on one man," he said. "And they'll keep going for the better of the industry."

2degrees had changed the mobile market greatly since launching in 2009 and there was no going back from here, Brislen said.

Management at the company are still coming to terms with the deaths of Hertz and his wife, Kathy, lost at sea after their plane went down off Kawhia.

"We've got a lot of sadness to work through but the mission doesn't change," said corporate affairs director Mat Bolland when asked about the future of the company. "I know that's exactly what Eric would want."

Bolland said it was too early to comment on who would be stepping into the leadership role.

He emphasised the close working relationship New Zealand management had with the board and shareholders which would ensure continuity.

2degrees chairman Stewart Sherriff and Brad Horowitz, the president of US-based majority shareholder Trilogy Partners, had been in New Zealand last week and were both flying back here to work through the continuity plan for the business, Bolland said. "They're very familiar with the business."

Although 2degrees was launched in 2009, it dates back to 2001 when predecessor Econet teamed up with Maori spectrum holders Hautaki Trust to build a mobile network.

It has since invested more than $500 million building the third mobile phone network. Hertz came on board after an internal shake-up saw the original chief executive leave just two weeks out from the brand launch.

At the time, Hertz told the Business Herald why he was excited to be taking the role: "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."

Hertz brought with him more than 30 years' experience in the telco sector, including senior roles at US firms Western Wireless, BellSouth, McCaw Cellular and AT&T Wireless.

At Western Wireless, he worked with Trilogy founder John Stanton and his wife, Theresa Gillespie.

Last year, as 2degrees passed the one million customer mark, Hertz said he still saw plenty of growth in the market. "It's no longer about the number of people in the country," he said. "It's really about the number of connections."

Smartphones and tablets had changed consumer behaviour, and would continue to do so as the technology became cheaper.

"In the future, cameras and all kinds of devices are going to have connections to the network," he said.

"It's not about four million people, it's about - in the next few years - 15 to 20 million connections that people will be seeking."


2degrees

Who owns it?

60 per cent Trilogy International. Founded in 2005 by US billionaire John Stanton, his wife, Theresa Gillespie, and Brad Horwitz.

10 per cent Hautaki Trust: A pan-Maori investment trust allocated a share of spectrum during the government 3G auction in 2000.

29 per cent Private equity group Communication Venture Partners.

1 per cent KLR (Hong Kong)

- NZ Herald

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