BT’s new chair Adam Crozier only works for household names


Adam Crozier, the new chairman of BT Group PLC (LSE:BT.A) (LSE:BT.A), has been a big wheel in several high profile organisations.

It’s almost as if he won’t work for a company unless the man in the street has heard of it.

He cut his teeth working for advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, which is perhaps not the household name it once was but in all probability, if the person on the Clapham omnibus can name one advertising firm, that’s the one the person would name.

Crozier worked for Saatchis from 1988 to 1999, becoming joint chief executive in 1995 when the Saatchi brothers were ousted from their own firm.

For reasons not yet explained, Crozier, a Scotsman, became chief executive of the Football Association (FA), the organisation ostensibly in command of English football.

Critics said he had no experience of the football business – he knew sweet FA, in other words – and after the appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager on Crozier’s watch they might have had a point; however, Crozier sharpened up the FA’s commercial act, juicing the revenue stream so the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium would not end up as a millstone around the association’s neck.

Perhaps taking tips from his countryman Sir Alex Ferguson, Crozier reportedly was overly autocratic at the FA and in February 2003 he moved on to become the chief executive officer of Royal Mail PLC (LSE:RMG), prompting complaints from critics that he had no experience of posting a letter.

Joking aside, by that point Crozier did have experience of turning around one national institution hidebound by tradition so taking on Royal Mail had a certain logic to it.

As at the Football Association, Crozier went on a modernising drive, switching from a 4-4-2 formation to 3-2-1; in other words, he made a lot of people redundant, many of them postmasters.

Under his tenure, close to 6,000 post offices were shut, he withdrew the second post (i.e. two deliveries a day) and ceased Sunday collections of mail.

When he left in 2010 it was after a series of disruptive strikes over pay and conditions, although Crozier’s decision to quit was reportedly by the government getting cold feet over privatising the Royal Mail.

He decamped to ITV, where he did not face criticism of being the sort of bloke who only ever watched Channel 4 and BBC 2.

Once again, this was an organisation in need of modernisation. Even in 2010, the writing was on the wall for terrestrial TV and its heavy reliance on advertising revenues.

Under Crozier’s stewardship, the broadcaster diversified so that it produced and therefore controlled more content; it’s a strategy that has generally been lauded.

Today, it was announced he would take over as chair of BT Group, the offspring of the Post Office.

Yes, hard though it is to believe, kiddies, the Post Office used to control the UK telephone network.

As a former state-owned company, it bears many other similarities to Royal Mail, such as heavy pension obligations, strong unions, a previously monopolistic position being eroded and a reputation for having a bit of a dog in a manger reputation.

The difference this time is that Crozier will be the chair rather than the chief executive (CEO), so he’ll be setting the agenda but someone else – Philip Jansen, the current CEO, presumably – will be implementing it.


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