Deutsche Telekom CEO Obermann to step down at the end of 2013

Deutsche Telekom (DT) surprised the industry by announcing that CEO Rene Obermann will depart the company at the end of 2013. DT's board said CFO Timotheus Hoettges will become deputy CEO next year and take full control starting in January 2014.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann


DT said in a statement that Obermann is leaving the company after 16 years--11 of these as a board member--to "move closer to operational activities than would otherwise be possible for the CEO of an international corporate group and take on even more entrepreneurial activities"

There have been indications during 2012 that Obermann was becoming frustrated about the constraints of working in a big telco, according to GigaOM, and that the timing of his departure was at his request.

"I want to go back to having more time for customers, for product development and for technology," Obermann said in a statement. "I cannot think of anyone [referring to the appointment of Hoettges] better suited to continue the developments of the last few years."

Obermann has made notable contributions to DT's progress, and is credited with halting a slide in market share for DT fixed line internet business, the creation of EE in the UK with partner France Telecom, and more recently negotiating the T-Mobile USA's merger with MetroPCS. However, there have also been problems.

Most obvious is that DT's shares have lost about 36 per cent since Obermann took over as CEO from Kai-Uwe Ricke in November 2006, according to Bloomberg, although shares of telcos have been the worst-performing industry group in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index this year.

Commenting on Obermann's unexpected decision, Nomura analyst Frederic Boulan told Bloomberg: "I'm surprised as Obermann presented the company's strategy on Dec. 6 and he's now preparing to exit the company. But at the same time he's been at the company for a long time and managing Deutsche Telekom is a tiring and demanding job. It will be a very smooth transition and I don't think the overall strategy will change."

For more:
- see this Deutsche Telekom release
- see this GigaOM article
- see this Bloomberg article

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