Stephen Carter (pictured), the head of business information giant Informa, will become a non-executive director of UK telco group Vodafone in a few weeks.
The appointment, which will come into effect after the company’s AGM on 26 July, is subject to shareholder approval but that seems like a formality. On paper Carter is such a natural fit for Vodafone that the most surprising part of this move is that it didn’t happen. Full disclosure – Telecoms.com is owned by Informa.
“I am delighted to welcome Stephen to Vodafone’s Board,” said the awesomely named Vodafone Chairman Jean-Francois van Boxmeer. “He brings a track record of value creation and he has extensive commercial and regulatory experience in the telecoms and media sectors. I look forward to Stephen’s valuable contribution as the Board and management team work closely together to drive the execution of Vodafone’s strategy, to achieve our commercial and portfolio priorities and deliver long-term value for shareholders.”
While Informa covers the full spectrum of industries with its events, publications and digital services, telecoms dominates Carter’s CV. He was the founding CEO of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom back in 2003, having previously run NTL UK and Ireland. He went on to become a senior member of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s team in 2008, which included three ministerial positions, for which he was given the title of Baron Carter of Barnes.
Telecoms came to the fore again when Carter returned to the private sector as Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Alcatel Lucent in 2010, at which time he also joined the Informa board. After three years of courtship Informa apparently made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he moved over to become the full-time CEO. At around the same time Carter became a board member of United Utilities Group, a position he will swap for the new Vodafone gig.
Apart from all this handy telecoms, regulatory and political experience, an intriguing aspect of this appointment concerns all the M&A Carter has got up to at Informa. In 2016 he spent £1.2 billion acquiring Penton and then dropped almost £4 billion on UBM a couple of years later. And let’s not forget the smaller but no less significant acquisition of telecoms news site Light Reading in 2016 too, further illustrating Carter’s soft spot for this industry.
Vodafone is coming under increasing pressure from investors to land some juicy M&A, with links to Three UK and TalkTalk refusing to go away. The addition of Carter, who was also once rumoured to be in the running for the BT CEO position, to the board gives Vodafone a significant UK establishment figure and a telecoms veteran who’s not shy about getting the corporate credit card out. Carter’s talent for M&A could end up being the most significant thing he brings to the top table.