StarHub – BT

Former M1 chief to take the reins at StarHub

Neil Montefiore will take over the post from Terry Clontz who will be retiring

The maxim ‘know thy self, know thy enemy’ is taking on new meaning in Singapore’s telecommunications battleground.

In a move which surprised most industry watchers, StarHub yesterday announced the retirement of long-standing chief executive Terry Clontz. To fill the upcoming void, Singapore’s second largest operator is turning to the former helmsman of the country’s smallest telco MobileOne – Neil Montefiore.

Mr Montefiore, who left M1 only in February this year, will re-emerge as StarHub’s CEO exactly a year later. Mr Clontz will relinquish his CEO role in January 2010 but will continue to be a director of the company, StarHub said in a statement.

The change-of-guard is subject to the approval of telecommunications regulator the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

‘This comes as a complete surprise to me,’ said DBS Vickers analyst Sachin Mittal.

‘There were no rumblings in the market before this (announcement),’ added OCBC analyst Carey Wong.

Mr Clontz, 58, joined StarHub in January 1999 as its founding president and CEO, steering the firm through its merger with Singapore Cable Vision in 2002 and its listing in 2004.

‘Terry has led StarHub from a fledgling new entrant to a leading quad-play listed entity. At StarHub, he is known for his innovative ideas, clear vision and cohesive strategies,’ said company chairman Tan Guong Ching.

Mr Montefiore on the other hand, left M1 for ‘personal reasons’ in February after nearly 13 years of service, resulting in the appointment of its veteran chief financial officer Karen Kooi as the new CEO two months later.

Mr Montefiore re- emerged at several major telecommunications conferences shortly after as a ‘telecommunications consultant’.

While Mr Montefiore’s new appointment may have caught most industry watchers off-guard, the switch looks to have been sealed at the time of his resignation from M1.

In an interview with a telecommunications news site in March, Mr Montefiore was quoted as saying he wants to ‘work as an independent consultant for 12 months, before beginning a new role – as yet unspecified – in 2010’.

When contacted, M1 declined to comment if his move to StarHub had violated any contractual obligations. However, industry observers believe the one- year buffer could be a result of a non-compete clause in his former contract.

‘He’s (Mr Montefiore) definitely someone who knows the local market and he also knows the competitor,’ said DBS Vickers’ Mr Mittal.

While Mr Montefiore may be an old hand in the mobile sector, he may need ‘some time to get up to speed’ with StarHub’s pay- TV and broadband businesses, according to OCBC’s Mr Wong.

‘Time is a luxury that StarHub may not have with the NBN (national broadband network) coming on board in 2012,’ he added.

Once Singapore’s new fibre-optic network comes online at the end of 2012, the combination of breakneck Internet speeds and a more open regulatory regime is widely-expected to intensify competition for all three local operators.

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