The world’s largest mobile operator Vodafone Group Plc has confirmed that its chief marketing officer and executive director Peter Bamford will leave the operator at the end of the month.
The exit of Bamford is being viewed as a move by chief executive Arun Sarin to tighten his grip on the boardroom and free the Newbury, UK-based mobile operator from the personnel most associated with his predecessor Sir Christopher Gent.
Peter Bamford has made a major contribution to our business over many years, as chief executive for our UK business, as regional Chief executive and most recently as CMO, said Sarin. During that time he has been instrumental in developing our brand both within the UK and internationally and delivering a number of major initiatives including the launch of Vodafone live! with 3G and overseeing some of our key sponsorships. We wish him well in the future and thank him for all he has done for Vodafone.
Reports first began circulating in the UK media last week over a boardroom split at Vodafone between the old guard and new. A meeting to discuss last week’s asset write-off, where between 23bn and 28bn pounds ($40bn and $48.7bn) was wiped off from the value of Vodafone’s assets mostly related to its $188bn takeover of the German conglomerate Mannesmann AG six years ago, reportedly got heated at best.
Since then there have been reports in the UK media of divisions at the top of Vodafone and an apparent whispering campaign against Sarin, after elements of the old guard led by Gent objected to Sarin’s readiness to offload Vodafone’s crown jewels, namely its wireless assets in Japan and the US.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Sarin personally delivered the unexpected news to Bamford of his departure on Wednesday morning, just hours before the statement was released. Bamford will be temporarily replaced by Vodafone’s global consumer marketing director Frank Rovekamp.
Two more men in the Gent camp are also near to leaving. Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, Vodafone’s chairman, is reportedly close to walking out, despite five months remaining on his contract. Meanwhile, Vodafone’s deputy chief executive Julian Horne-Smith is due to leave the company in the summer. Once this happens, Sarin will have appointed all the current executive directors at Vodafone.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph also reported that Vodafone’s potential sale of Vodafone Japan (Vodafone KK) to the Japanese broadband provider Softbank Corp could be in doubt. It reported that SoftBank could use loans to fund the acquisition of Vodafone KK, which is thought to be worth something in the region of 8bn pounds ($13.9bn) to 10bn pounds ($17.4bn). However, SoftBank’s debt already has a junk rating, and the company had been placed on credit watch with a view to downgrade by a ratings agency.
The UK newspaper understands that SoftBank plans to set up a separate vehicle to buy the assets and apparently plans to raise 7.3bn pounds ($12.68bn) to 9.7bn pounds ($16.85bn) from Japanese banks and financial institutions to fund the purchase, using as little as 500m pounds ($869m) of its own money.
About 50% of the funds raised will be highly leveraged debt, which will need to be fixed against the assets of Vodafone Japan as collateral. The new company will own as much as 98% of Vodafone Japan, with Vodafone owning the remaining 2%, the newspaper said.
Shares in Vodafone rose 0.82% to 123.5 pence ($2.14) on the London Stock Exchange, as of 3.10pm G Thursday.