NBN Co's first and only CEO Mike Quigley announced on Friday that he will retire from corporate life after four years at the helm of the Australian government-owned company charged with rolling out the AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network (NBN).
The company today released a statement saying that Quigley will continue to serve as CEO until a replacement is found.
Quigley, who was appointed as CEO in 2009 when the company was first created by the government to roll fibre out to 93 percent of premises across Australia, said he has set up the foundations for the company for the next 30 years.
"That job is largely complete. NBN Co is now a well-established wholesale telecommunications company with a nationwide workforce, delivery partners, infrastructure agreements, complex IT systems and more than 40 retail customers, which are supplying fast, reliable, and affordable broadband to a growing number of Australians," he said.
Quigley said the next CEO will need to build on these foundations and work closely with the construction and telecommunications industries.
"I joined NBN Co because I believed better telecommunications was central to Australia's ongoing success. I still believe that today. The ramp-up in construction and the news last week that the company had passed more than 200,000 premises with fibre gives me further confidence that the NBN build can be delivered by 2021 in line with the projections in the company’s corporate plan."
There had been reports that NBN Co chairperson Siobhan McKenna had been looking to replace Quigley amid ongoing controversy over delays in construction of the network.
McKenna today said NBN Co had been fortunate to have Quigley as its CEO.
"His intellect, tenacity, and knowledge of telecommunications products and network architecture have taken NBN Co from a policy vision to a successful operating entity."
In a joint release from Communications Minister Anthony Albanese and Finance Minister Penny Wong, the government thanked Quigley for his time with the company.
"Mr Quigley came out of retirement to head NBN Co. He was eager to join the project because he understood the importance of nation-building infrastructure that is essential for our nation's economic future," the ministers said.
"Mr Quigley also understands, intuitively, what all good infrastructure builders know: You do it once and you do it right."
The ministers said Quigley was instrumental in negotiating the AU$11 billion deal with Telstra to structurally separate and shift customers from the legacy fixed-line copper access network and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network onto the NBN.
"Mr Quigley can be tremendously proud of what he has achieved. On behalf of the government and the Australian people, we wish to thank Mike Quigley for helping build the infrastructure Australia needs for the 21st century."
Quigley often came under criticism from Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said that Quigley was not an appropriate choice for the role.
Prior to joining NBN Co, Quigley spent 36 years with telecommunications vendor Alcatel-Lucent, but had retired in 2007.
Turnbull initially sought to dredge up old allegations of bribery at Alcatel-Lucent, before he then shifted his attack to say that while Quigley had experience at a telecommunications vendor, he was not experienced in rolling out a network the size of the NBN, and that inexperience had caused the NBN to set unrealistic milestones and fostered a "culture of gold-plating" within the company.
Although Quigley will remain as CEO until his replacement is found, Turnbull today claimed that NBN Co was now "leaderless".
"Mr Quigley has not been pushed out because he’s been doing a good job. He’s been pushed out of this company because it has not succeeded in meeting its targets." he said in Darwin.
Turnbull said the network rollout was a "classic case of Labor mismanagement" that was the fault of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who devised the project during his first stint as prime minister.
NBN Co will hold a telephone conference with journalists at 2pm AEST today on Quigley's decision to retire.
More to come.