’s () chairman Jan Du Plessis’s retirement from the FTSE 100 telecoms group was down to pressure from chief executive Philip Jansen, according to a report today.
On Monday, BT announced the South African boardroom veteran would step down once a successor had been found.
Du Plessis had been at BT for around four years and took over as chairman in November 2017 but with multiple issues still facing the business, his departure was a surprise to many in the City.
In the statement, Du Plessis said that after 17 years as chairman of significant FTSE companies the time was right to step down and focus on other interests.
Sky News, reported today, however, that Jansen had issued the board with an ultimatum that he would resign unless a chairman was appointed who would accelerate the pace of change at BT.
Instances of chief executives instigating a change of chairperson are rare, but the report said Jansen wanted more freedom to tackle the multiple problems faced by the telco.
The group currently is having to balance the costs of upgrading its Openreach network against growing competitive pressure, a huge pension fund liability and the demands of shareholders, who saw their dividend cut in May.
Du Plessis is said primarily to have wanted to repair bridges with regulator Ofcom, while Jansen wants a major overhaul including potentially the sale of all or part of Openreach.
One of Du Plessis’ first major decisions at the telecoms group was a leadership overhaul that saw chief executive Gavin Patterson depart and former boss Jansen take over at the start of 2019.
Upgrading Openreach arm to full fibre optic cable run right up to the door, known as FTTP, will cost billions.
Shares in BT rallied this week as it should get relief on this spending from the super-deduction capital investment tax break announced by the Chancellor in the Budget on Wednesday.
The share price has fallen from around 270p in November 2017 when Du Plessis took over to 139p, up 3.7%, today.