Reynolds' departure a loss for NZ

When Paul Reynolds departs our shores next year, he should leave with the thanks and support of Telecom, and also of New Zealand.

When Paul Reynolds departs our shores next year, he should leave with the thanks and support of Telecom, and also of New Zealand.

As its CEO, Reynolds might have made mistakes, but he has transformed a hated enterprise under attack on many fronts to one with a much better public image, and one that has won the lion's share of the government's ultra-fast broadband (UFB) initiative.

He will certainly leave a very different Telecom to the embattled enterprise he inherited in 2007. Now, we have a Telecom secure in its future instead of a company in decline.

Commentators have been looking at how well he fared, with most opinion deservedly favourable. They note a competent leader who "steered his company through difficult times".

As mentioned earlier, when Reynolds arrived in 2007, public pressure had forced the then Labour government to split the company into three units, and unbundle the local loop.

This restructuring was the job that Reynolds was recruited to carry out — something that he completed successfully by 2009.

Then there was Telecom's XT debacle, a system that many blamed on his predecessor but it was a disaster he turned around with aplomb, thanks to his openness over the crashes that XT suffered.

Reynolds' handling of the debacle earned much praise, with Ernie Newman of the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand so impressed that he wanted the Scotsman's passport impounded, so he could never leave our shores.

Telecom was also the the perfect corporate citizen during the Christchurch quakes, offering the city much support.

But political and regulatory battles arose once more, thanks to the current government's UFB project. The extensive nature of UFB meant that Telecom could not provide both fibre and retail.

Reynolds reportedly did not want to see a further restructuring of Telecom, but was forced to back down; thus, we now see the company about to split into "Telecom Retail" and "New Chorus".

However, Reynolds played tough, helping Telecom/Chorus to pick up 70 per cent of the work for the government broadband project.

Such battling through so many storms may even have saved Telecom from irrelevancy.

Certainly, its order book is healthy and its share price is rising again.

As journalists, we also get to meet such executives on a personal basis. I did not have many dealings with Telecom in the era of the previous CEO Theresa Gattung, but, at the time, I remember a colleague who did not like her or her business. He was not alone.

By contrast, the affable Scotsman certainly showed much charm, and Telecom seems far more open and helpful now — not secretive like it appeared in the past.

There will always be those bitter moaners who will never be satisfied with a privatised Telecom, particularly those who still haven't got over its privatisation, perhaps also embarrassed that it was a Labour government that sold off their "precious" in 1990.

But on balance, Reynolds has salvaged the company's reputation, giving New Zealand an incumbent monopoly telco that it can once again be proud off, and, if all goes to plan, a UFB network that we can be proud of, too!