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BT's next chief executive - runners and riders

They're under starters orders...
Written by Ben King, Contributor

They're under starters orders...

Sir Peter Bonfield has finally been put out to grass, but there's no clear successor in line for the biggest job in the UK telecoms industry. The field's so wide open that no-one's taking bets, speculation is running wild, and these are the names they're all talking about& The Likely Lads: Roy Gardner: As the man who turned British Gas into Centrica, his experience of inflicting silly branding on former state monopolies will doubtless be tempting the BT powers-that-be. Openworld customers would doubtless enjoy the irony of BT being run by the man who bought the AA breakdown service.
Verdict: The gas man not likely to be the breath of fresh air required Rupert Gavin: Best known as the boss of the BBC's commercial arm, Worldwide, he turned the Tellytubbies into a fat global cash cow, and he does at least know the chairman, Sir Christopher Bland. He has form in the telecoms industry too, with a stint at BT on his CV - as information, communications and entertainment manager. But will that really count in his favour?
Verdict: A good bet. Expect broadband content to rocket up the agenda Graham Wallace: As chief executive of Cable & Wireless, he has a multi-billion pound cash pile at his disposal, but hasn't found anything to spend it on - a refreshing change for a company up to its eyeballs in debt after a frenzy of overpriced acquisitions. If he could bring C&W's money with him then he'd definitely be welcome, but that's unlikely. His experience managing restaurants at Granada Group could also pay dividends at the staff canteen.
Verdict: Worth a flutter Long shots: Rod Matthews: Ex Scottish Telecom chief, he is now plotting world domination from his secret headquarters somewhere inside investment bank WestLB Panmure. He once tried to buy BT's local loop, so he does at least want to run part of BT - something few other candidates can bring to the table.
Verdict: Scottish chief to British chief? It worked for King James I Lucy Woods: Having spent 15 years on the inside of BT, the current boss of Worldcom Europe will be reluctant to return. She was even Vallance's executive assistant for a while, so she knows what she'd be letting herself in for. She'd also have trouble presenting herself as a new broom if she was that close to the wheel when everything started going pear-shaped.
Verdict: A woman? A woman? You'll be telling us to hire a foreigner next& Rank Outsiders: Pierre Danon: Young (44), gifted and French, Danon is the housewives' choice. He has had a successful time as head honcho at BT Retail, staunching the flow of customers to BT's rivals. Former president of Xerox Europe, he knows what life is like inside a botched corporate restructuring project. Which is probably why he says he doesn't want the BT job - too much like déjà vu.
Verdict: You can lead a horse to water... Mike Grabiner: Another ex-BT staffer and high-profile slacker who headed up Energis before he shocked the market in May by quitting to "do something entirely different". As far as anyone knows, he's not doing anything, and seems content to stay that way. Sounds like he's working on a novel to us. BT will need to twist his arm pretty hard to make him take the job.
Verdict: More interested in eating the grass than running Non runners:
Hans Snook: They're drawing the screens around the ex-Orange supremo and calling for the vet. Snook built the latecomer mobile network into a market leader through a mixture of smart branding and scruffy leather jackets. Didn't fit in with France Telecom's strict orange tie dress code, and got booted out soon after the takeover. Not likely to fit in at BT either.
Verdict: Rank outsider - more likely to pursue his interest in colonic irrigation Dead Cert: Someone completely unexpected: Why not go for a complete outsider? Someone with a fresh cosmopolitan approach developed far away from the stuffy and incestuous British establishment? With a strong CV studded with European achievements, to drag the company into a more international future? Someone who doesn't quite realise what an extremely unpleasant job it's likely to be? Step forward, Sven-Goran Eriksson&
Verdict: Sven-sational
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