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Rake to succeed Bland at BT helm

Analysts have tentatively welcomed 'pragmatic' choice as top accountant takes telco chairmanship
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

BT has named Sir Michael Rake, the current chairman of accountancy giant KPMG, as its next chairman.

Rake, who acquired his knighthood in the most recent New Year Honours List, will succeed Sir Christopher Bland as head of the incumbent British telco in September.

"I am thrilled to be joining a company which has achieved so much in recent years and has such ambition for the future. Sir Christopher Bland has done a magnificent job setting BT on a secure financial footing and developing a strategy for the future," said Rake on Monday.

Rake added that he felt "extremely enthusiastic about helping to build upon the success of a company which has already given Britain a position of international leadership in broadband availability, and has established itself as a world leader in networked IT services".

Rake has been a longstanding proponent of "responsible business", serving as chairman of Business in the Community. He is also on the board of the Prince of Wales' International Business Leaders Forum and is a governor of Wellington College in Berkshire.

However, Rake's time as chairman of KPMG has seen the firm accused of fraud by the US Department of Justice. The firm subsequently admitted creating illegal tax shelters so that its client could evade billions of dollars in taxation, and cleared the matter by paying $456m (£234m) in fines, although Rake was not named in the Department of Justice indictment.

KPMG's official biography of Rake notes that he has consistently pushed for a "progressive and pragmatic legislative response post-Enron". He is also vice president for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and wrote the foreword for a pamphlet in 2003, entitled How to join the euro.

It is believed that Rake will take a significant pay cut in his new role, down from the £3.6m plus £800,000 bonus he took home from KPMG last year.

Analysts seemed slightly uncertain of what to make of Rake's appointment on Monday. Ovum's Chris Lewis told ZDNet UK that "the only thing you can read into it is that BT is at a stage where it is moving into new markets and it's got to do things right on a commercial basis, which is perhaps something that telcos in general have not done into the past".

"There's no harm in bringing a bit of pragmatism into it," Lewis added.

Sir Christopher has been BT chairman since 2001, prior to which he was chairman of the BBC.

Sir Michael Rake

Sir Michael Rake, who is succeeding Sir Christopher Bland as chairman of BT
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