Harding quits as CEO of TalkTalk

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Dido Harding to focus on public service as Dunstone moves back to TalkTalk and ex-BT CEO Livingston becomes chairman of Dixons Carphone

Dido Harding, the scourge of BT and Openreach, has quit as CEO of telecoms operator TalkTalk and is to leave the company in May after seven years.

She will be replaced by her predecessor, Charles Dunstone, who is non-executive chairman of TalkTalk and also chairs Dixons Carphone, the retailer from which TalkTalk split in 2010.

Dunstone will step down as chairman of Dixons Carphone to become executive chairman of TalkTalk, but Tristia Harrison, who runs TalkTalk Consumer, will become the new CEO of the phone company in succession to Harding.

Her time at TalkTalk has been troubled by the company’s huge data breach in 2015, for which it was fined £400,000 by the UK’s information commissioner. Throughout her time she has been a thorn in the side of BT, having been particularly critical of its last-mile subsidiary, Openreach, demanding that the unit be separated out as an independent company.

Harding said she wanted to “focus more on my activities in public service”. She is a member of the UK House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, on the ruling Conservative side, and her comment has led to speculation that she may be angling for a political role.

Ironically, Dunstone will be succeeded as chairman of Dixons Carphone by Ian Livingston, who worked at Dixons in the 1990s. He was CEO of BT group until 2013, when he was appointed to the House of Lords to be prime minister David Cameron’s junior minister for trade and investment. He has not had a government role since the 2015 UK general election and has been deputy chairman of Dixons Carphone.

Harding said: “Between now and May, we will work together on a handover that maintains focus on this years’ performance and enables the new team to prepare for the next financial year and beyond.”