'Surprise' Verizon CEO Appointment Speaks to Fiber Focus

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Verizon Communications Inc. named Hans Vestberg as its next chief executive, choosing a relative newcomer to run the wireless giant at a time when its industry is being reshaped by megadeals.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam plans to retire from the company at the end of this year, and his successor will be Hans Vestberg, whose titles now include CTO, executive vice president, and president of global networks. His responsibilities include further developing the architecture for Verizon's fiber-centric networks, including the country's leading 4G LTE network, the largest and first 5G deployment in the USA, the nation's broadest residential fiber network, and a global internet backbone and undersea cable network carrying much of the world's internet traffic.

Vestberg will replace Lowell C. McAdam, who was named CEO in 2011.

She writes that most surprising to her is the fact that president of global ops John Stratton wasn't included in the decision, even as many viewed him as the obvious choice to take over from McAdam. Instead Stratton will retire.

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Hans Vestberg said in an interview the No. 1 US wireless carrier would keep pursuing its current 5G strategy but he did not "see anything new on the horizon" to pursue media content.

Verizon said he led the acquisitions of major media, fiber and telematics assets, including AOL, Yahoo, XO Communications and optical fiber from Corning as well as divestment of wireline, tower and data center operations.

Vestberg was CEO of Sweden's Ericsson for six years, focusing on growth over profit.

That left Ericsson with costs that were too high and put it into a slump as rising competition hit the network gear market.

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Investors may be wondering if Vestberg, who was ousted from Ericsson in 2016 following a series of disappointing financial results and pressure from unhappy shareholders, may be the right person to lead Verizon. Vestberg was "a better match for where Verizon was going to go", McAdam tells the WSJ.

Stratton, 57, has served Verizon and its predecessor, Bell Atlantic Mobile, for more than 25 years, holding various executive-level positions.

McAdam, 64, will serve as Executive Chairman of the Board through his retirement from the company at year's end, after which he will become Non-Executive Chairman.

By early afternoon, Verizon shares rose 0.3 per cent to US$49.18 each, on a day that other tech shares fell on reports Apple expects to cut iPhone production this year.

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