‘The very definition of a safe bet’: Did Optus make the right CEO choice?

This article was originally posted in Mumbrella.

Optus has finally appointed a new CEO — the current chief of NBN Co, Stephen Rue — who won’t start until November, a full year after former boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin resigned in the wake of a disastrously handled national outage.

As the boss of the National Broadband Network, Rue is currently the highest-paid government employee in the country, and seems — on paper — uniquely suited to run a national communications network. But is he the right choice to steer the telco’s reputation back on track? We ask the experts.

Benjamin Haslem: Director of media and public affairs, Icon Reputation

Optus parent company, Singtel, has tried to tick all the boxes needed to rehabilitate the company’s brand – not only with consumers but also with the Federal Government.

According to media reports, Rue was hired for his experience working with governments and in cyber security.

This expertise, added to his time as NBN CEO, sends a message to consumers that Optus has a leader who will protect their data and keep their mobile phones and internet-connected.

His government experience is a nod to the Federal Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, that Optus wants to mend bridges with Canberra.

Last November, Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan said the company’s next CEO should have experience in the telecommunications industry, effectively ruling out former NSW Premier and Optus executive Gladys Berejiklian for the top job.

A possible negative is the NBN’s reputation for failing to deliver, particularly outside the cities.

Rue was quoted yesterday saying he was looking forward to the “country as a whole … harness(ing) the power of digital connectivity to drive economic participation and social inclusion”.

Given the NBN’s perceived poor track record in the bush, this comment may draw a few wry smiles west of the Great Divide. However, it does dovetail nicely with a bi-partisan political desire in Canberra to improve digital equity and inclusion.

Optus partnering with TPG Telecom to create a new joint regional network demonstrates the telco is walking the walk.

Rue’s 17 years at News Corp Australia and three years as the Chair of NRL side the Melbourne Storm, suggests he has the private sector smarts to handle the rough and tumble of corporate life and is used to reporting back to head office overseas.

His media contacts won’t hurt either.

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