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Patterson to depart as BT chief

UK telco BT, parent company of pay-television broadcaster BT Sport, has today (Friday) announced that Gavin Patterson will depart as chief executive, stating it needs a change of leadership to deliver on its reform plans.

In what is being seen as a surprise move, BT said Patterson will be stepping down later in the year and that the board has commenced a search to identify his successor. A replacement is expected to be in place during the second half of the year and until such time Patterson will continue to serve as chief executive.

Jan du Plessis, chairman of BT, said: “Gavin has been with BT for just over 14 years and I want to thank him for his contribution to our business during that time, in particular during the almost five years that he has served as chief executive.

“The board is fully supportive of the strategy recently set out by Gavin and his team. The broader reaction to our recent results announcement has demonstrated to Gavin and me that there is a need for a change of leadership to deliver this strategy.”

UK newspaper The Guardian said Patterson’s exit follows a backlash from shareholders over BT’s recent results and concerns that he was not the right person to lead a restructuring plan unveiled last month.

In May, BT announced plans to cut around 13,000 jobs over the next three years as it admitted its structure is too complex and “overweight” when compared to rivals.

The announcements were made as BT revealed its fourth quarter and full year financial results for the period ending March 31, 2018. While revenue fell by one per cent year-on-year to £23.723bn (€27bn/$32.6bn), reported profits dropped by two per cent to £7.505bn and net debt increased by £695m to £9.627bn.

BT said the job losses would stem mainly from back office and middle-management, with 6,000 new hires also being made, chiefly in customer service and engineering. The job losses mean BT is set to shed around 13 per cent of its total global workforce over the next four years, with a further 4,000 job cuts being announced in May last year. Around two-thirds of the latest round of cuts will come from the company’s UK workforce of about 80,000.

Today’s announcement came a day after BT Sport and internet company Amazon acquired the final set of domestic rights to club football competition the English Premier League. The rights are for the three seasons spanning 2019-20 to 2021-22, with the fresh UK deals following an initial allocation of rights in February.

Package G, acquired by BT Sport, is made up of 15 matches from two midweek fixture programmes and five matches from the split weekend – a new initiative that will create an opportunity for a mid-season player break.

BT’s latest acquisition takes its total rights package up to 52 matches per season from 2019-20. The telco said the 20 additional matches will cost £90m, bringing the total cost for 52 games to £975m over three years. The three-year rights from 2019-20 will cost £975m for 52 games compared with £960m for 42 games at present.

BT stressed that it has remained financially disciplined during this process and remains in a “strong position” to make a return on investment through subscription, wholesale, commercial and advertising revenues.