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Telecom NZ gets the 'hard man' it needs

Telecom New Zealand has appointed a hard man as its new CEO.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

Telecom New Zealand has appointed a hard man as its new CEO.

Replacing Dr Paul Reynolds in September will be Simon Moutter, who was the telco's chief operating officer during the Theresa Gattung era of the early 2000s.

The return, widely seen as a surprise, has attracted mixed reviews.

The biggest negative for Moutter is that he is seen as a "relic" from the Gattung era, which preceded the time of Reynolds.

Paul Brislen of the Telecom Users Association of NZ branded the returnee as "Theresa Gattung's right-hand man".

These days, Telecom's Gattung tenure is widely discredited, accused of having poor management, making poor technology decisions and having overall poor company performance.

The era was also noted for Telecom's many battles with the former Labour government, and Telecom being on the "wrong side" of industry opinion on issues like Local Loop Unbundling and other regulatory matters.

In more recent years, lead by Reynolds, a Scotsman who previously worked for BT, Telecom has cultivated a friendlier image.

It has worked with government, taken a less-conflicting stance and, while it has accepted some regulatory changes, like the splitting of the company, Reynolds did succeed in delivering the bulk of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) work to Telecom offshoot Chorus.

Reynolds presented a kinder, gentler Telecom, as highlighted by his total honesty during the XT blackouts two years ago. Theresa Ghattung, by contrast, saw marketing as a device to confuse people, and might not have been as open, whereas Reynolds won people over with his charm, openness and disarming honesty.

As I noted when he resigned, Reynolds left behind a positive legacy to be proud of.

But Telecom faces fresh challenges ahead, where a change of tack might be what is needed.

The company is reportedly grossly overstaffed, and someone will have to wield the axe.

I am not saying that Reynolds is incapable of being a butcher, and I am not saying that favoured frontrunner Chris Quin of Gen-i is incapable, either.

However, the pair has presented a kinder face for the company, when a "hard man", an axe man, might well be what is needed to do the necessary.

Business, like politics, can well go in cycles, and it may be time for Telecom to have a toughie back at the top.

All the same, Simon Moutter has by all accounts done a sterling job at Auckland International Airport, which he has led for the past few years after leaving Telecom.

He will know Telecom's business inside out, and be familiar with all of its issues, machinations, culture and internal politics. From his past tenure, Moutter will also know where all the bodies are buried, although it seems that his knowledge of infrastructure gave him the edge.

So, Telecom New Zealand, under its smaller, post-Chorus and post-Reynolds era, will no doubt be a leaner and probably meaner organisation. But considering the reported skills of Simon Moutter, this might be what the good Dr Reynolds himself also ordered!

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