Bill Morrow expects to take the helm of NBN Co between March and April next year, but denies that he’s leaving a sinking ship, telling journalists today that Vodafone is stabilising and on its way to recovery.
When Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow joined the company in 2012, he said that he expected it to take three years to turn the company around. Today, it was announced that he would leave before the full three years to become the new CEO of NBN Co and oversee the overhaul of the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) under the Coalition government.
Although Vodafone’s last reporting showed that the company is continuing to lose customers, Morrow told journalists that he feels he can leave now that the company is starting to become stable heading into 2014.
“Vodafone Australia is in a position where it has some stability to it,” he said.
“When you look at the platform that has been laid by the employees, by the current management team. It’s a good time to move on to some other interests [of mine].”
Morrow was recruited by Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao, and although he is leaving before he had originally planned, Morrow said he still has a good relationship with Colao.
“He knew that I have other aspirations to do many things. I’m at an age where I want to leave a legacy, and those things are very important in my life, and he understood that perfectly,” he said.
He denied that his departure will encourage Vodafone Australia’s parent company to pull out of Australia.
“In reality, when you look at our results that will be announced in due course, it will [reinforce] that they’re here for good,” he said.
“There’s still a viable market for three operators here, so I don’t think the shareholders will be going anywhere.”
On Thursday morning, Morrow addressed Vodafone staff, saying his decision to leave was partly their fault, because he had “fallen in love with Australia” in his time at Vodafone.
“I want to make my life here, and I want to make something that benefits from the skills I have,” Morrow said.
Morrow’s skills include building out a major mobile network in the United States in his time at Clearwire, where he said he gained experience in working with construction companies, vendors, and other suppliers.
“It is almost like an automobile company, putting together the different parts that make the network come together.”
Morrow was approached for the role by executive headhunter organisation Egon Zehnder prior to the September election, but he said he wasn’t interested at that point.
“I was approached some time ago before the government changed, and quite frankly, I had my head down, focused on the issues we had here at Vodafone Australia,” he said.
“The instability of a government change wasn’t anything that a lot of chief executives would be interested in dealing with until you had clarity around that.”
He said that after the election, he was given a “gracious” offer by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski to take the CEO role, and it wasn’t one he could turn down.
Although Morrow declined to reveal how much he will be paid by NBN Co, he said it is less than the potential for what he could have earned at Vodafone.
Morrow will stay at Vodafone until between March or April next year, when the company hopes to have a new CEO in place for a handover period before Morrow starts at NBN Co. Although there are non-disclosure agreements in place before he starts at NBN Co, Morrow said he will be using the time before he starts at NBN Co to read up on the strategic review — a document he has not yet had a chance to read — as well as put together a 100-day plan for when he commences at NBN Co.