BT's civil war has claimed the head of one of its most fearsome generals - Pierre Danon.
The man who became CEO of BT Retail in October 2000 and got on the Board in November 2001, is leaving to become chief operating officer of Cap Gemini in Paris, a big step down for the Frenchman.
The board of Britain's biggest telecoms company has been tearing strips off each other for nearly a year as some top execs have attempted to expand into what others see as their territory. Danon was usually at the middle of it.
He continually offered or threatened to offer new BT services that undermined existing services in different arms of the business in a bid to strengthen his position in the company. He was also behind an outsourcing move to India that saved the company a lot of money but stirred up trouble with BT's powerful unions.
Danon and the company's financial director Ian Livingstone's relationship got so heated that at one point it is rumoured BT's chief executive Ben Verwaayen considered quitting. With BT Wholesale's head Paul Reynolds also furious that Danon was trying to undermine him, it is surprising that Danon lasted as long as he did.
However, Danon is a slick operator, particularly with regard to the press, and is not someone to be trifled with. One BT insider told us this morning on hearing the news, that BT would be celebrating Danon's removal: "He was often very savvy with the media but his autocratic, rule-by-fear approach won’t be missed by BT."
The final nail in his coffin has been Ofcom's decision to get tough with BT after years of putting up with its delaying tactics by insisting the company allow competitor access to the local loop - meaning that other companies can offer end-to-end telecoms services. Danon had previously made it known that he was fiercely opposed to any unbundling but then changed tack and asked for more leeway in producing his own services - something that caused another big row. It would cost the company a lot of money and undermine BT Wholesale's business.
Danon's position finally became untenable when CEO Verwaayen also turned against him. It will be interesting to see how the matter is covered by the press - many of whom were charmed into presenting Danon's point of view during BT's internal war.
Of course, in the official release none of this bitter rancour is displayed. Pierre Danon trills: "I am thrilled by the scale of the new opportunity offered to me by Cap Gemini and proud of the work completed by the BT Retail Team. BT faces an exciting and successful future."
Verwaayen offered: "Pierre has done a superb job at BT Retail and he will make an outstanding contribution as chief operating officer at Cap Gemini, a company which we partner and admire. I would like to pay tribute to Pierre’s winning spirit and to thank him for the part he has played in building an exciting future for BT."
Even Sir Christopher "Colonel" Bland, BT's chairman added his piece: "Pierre has made a tremendous contribution to the transformation of BT. His energy and customer focus has been much valued during the past four years. He has now been offered a major new challenge and we all wish him well."
With a disruptive influence at the heart of BT removed, the company will able to deal more effectively with the competition it will soon face - competition being a concept that BT usually regards as something for other people.
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