UK cable operator ntl surprised the markets yesterday with news that chief executive Simon Duffy is moving to a new role of executive vice-chairman. The CEO position is going to Stephen Burch, a senior executive at US cable group Comcast.
The job switch comes as ntl progresses towards a merger with Telewest, and considers its next move after Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile last week rejected ntl's £817m offer.
ntl confirmed it was changing the terms of its merger with Telewest in order to avoid making a change of ownership payment said to be worth £100m to the BBC. The transaction will now show Telewest buying ntl, though financial terms remain the same. The BBC is the co-owner with Telewest of the digital channel portfolio UKTV.
Burch—who has spent 26 years in the cable sector, and 17 years at Comcast—will be president and chief executive officer of the merged ntl-Telewest from January 16. Burch was president of Comcast's Atlantic division, and reportedly played a key role in Comcast's integration of AT&T Broadband.
ntl said as executive vice-chairman Duffy would focus on external management issues, including group strategy and business development, European and UK regulatory affairs, mergers and acquisitions, "and other areas as part of the company's efforts to continue the development of its growth strategy".
ntl chairman James Mooney said: "Since joining the company in March of 2003, Simon has helped lay the foundation that has enabled ntl to reach the next phase of the company's evolution.
"Against that backdrop, and recognising that the company's enhanced scale and presence now requires a greater focus on external management, Simon will concentrate on that area.
"We will look to Stephen to lead ntl through our merger with Telewest. Stephen brings a wealth of leadership and direction to our company in this pivotal time as we now begin in earnest to integrate Telewest to create the premier UK communications company."
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