MTN’s latest turnaround strategy involves poaching top executives from its arch rival

Number one.
Number one.
Image: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
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Africa’s largest telecom is appointing a new CEO, and shaking up its board and top executives. After settling a record fine in Nigeria for failing to disconnect unregistered sim cards, South Africa-headquartered company MTN recruited Rob Shuter from rival Vodafone, the company announced today, June 20.

Shuter joins MTN after a stint as CEO of Vodafone’s Europe Cluster. According to his LinkedIn profile, Shuter’s telecoms career began in 2009 as CFO for Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile network. A South African national, he will take up his new position as CEO and president by July 1, 2017.

MTN also poached a new vice president of South and East Africa from Vodacom, a Vodafone subsidiary. Godfrey Motsa, Vodacom’s chief officer for consumer business, will join MTN on July 1. MTN said the new hires are part of its undertaking to improve governance and strategy.

Phuthuma Nhleko, who has steered MTN since Nov. 2015, will return to his role as non-executive chairman. Nhleko took over the reigns after CEO Sifiso Dabengwa was forced to step down in the middle of the turbulence caused by the Nigerian fine.

MTN’s woes in its largest market began in Oct. 2015, when the operator was fined a record $5.1 billion for failing to disconnect unregistered sim cards. Nigeria’s Communications Commission eventually settled on $1.7 billion earlier this month. The settlement was reached after months of wrangling that ended in a “good faith payment” of $250 million and a promise to register MTN on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

The saga saw MTN lose its spot as Africa’s most valuable telecoms operator to Vodacom. “MTN has weathered a rather difficult storm and will continue to review its governance and management operating structure,” Nhleko said in today’s statement.

The company also announced several new board members, and a new vice president of M&A and Strategy, who will be named at the end of June. Its battered share price began recovering on news of the fine’s settlement and has been buoyed by the word of the new appointments.