Beleaguered second tier telecoms group Vocus has reshuffled its board after incumbent chairman David Spence decided against standing for re-election.
Vaughan Bowen, founder of M2 Telecommunications, which merged with Vocus in 2016, and previously an executive director of the combined group, has been elevated to chairman; while Bob Mansfield, the former Telstra chairman, founding Optus CEO, and McDonald’s Australia boss, becomes deputy chairman, and the lead independent director.
The moves come after a torrid year for Vocus, which is best known for its consumer internet brands such as iPrimus and Dodo. Over the past 12 months its share price has fallen by 60 per cent.
The company has been beset by a series of operational and accounting bungles as it sought to bed down assets after a two year mergers and acquisitions binge.
Vocus was recently in the crosshairs of two private equity firms, with storied US buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Asia focused Affinity Equity Partners both lobbing $2.2 billion bids for the company.
However, after being granted detailed access to the company’s books, both firms walked away from potential deals after being unable to agree terms with the board.
“I’m privileged to be given the opportunity to serve as Vocus Chairman and to play an important role in helping to steer the Company back to a position where we recover the value and credibility lost over a disappointing last year,” Mr Bowen said in a statement. “I want to assure all shareholders that restoring value is the Board’s utmost priority and, as a sizeable Vocus shareholder, my interests are aligned with all shareholders.”
Mr Bowen has a reputation as dealmaker. At M2, he helped orchestrate acquisitions of a string of smaller telcos including Primus, Eftel, and Dodo. However, sources close to the company expect the current focus to remain executing its turnaround plan, which it unveiled to investors in August.
Mr Bowen holds about 8.9 million shares in Vocus, according to a recent filing, or about 1.3 per cer cent of the company. Vocus shares were up 4¢, or 1.7 per cent to $2.47 on Tuesday morning, valuing Mr Bowen’s stake at $22 million.
“I recognise the time for delivering improved, sustainable performance is now,” he said. “[M]eeting our earnings and broader performance targets will be the only acceptable outcomes.”
Incoming Deputy Chairman, Mr Mansfield, said: “I genuinely see the opportunity for Vocus to become the pre-eminent challenger telco in the markets in which we operate. “