TalkTalk taps deals expert after Virgin Media O2 takeover talks break down

·2-min read
TalkTalk logo - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
TalkTalk logo - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

TalkTalk has brought in a deals specialist as its new finance director after talks over a lucrative takeover by Virgin Media O2 broke down.

The broadband provider has appointed James Smith, formerly head of finance at Capricorn Energy, as chief financial officer. He will take up the role in the coming months.

Mr Smith served for nine years at Capricorn before being forced out by shareholders last month amid furore over the energy firm’s plans to merge with Israeli gas group NewMed.

A specialist in mergers and acquisitions who previously held investment banking roles at Rothschild and Merrill Lynch, Mr Smith will replace Jonathan Thackray, who has been at TalkTalk for nine years.

The appointment comes amid a broader management shake-up at TalkTalk, which was founded by British billionaire Sir Charles Dunstone in 2003.

Sir Charles Dunstone - Paul Grover
Sir Charles Dunstone - Paul Grover

The entrepreneur, who spun TalkTalk off from Carphone Warehouse in 2010, was forced to abandon talks over a sale to Virgin Media O2 last year amid a darkening economic outlook and uncertainty over the response from regulators.

Alongside hiring Mr Smith, TalkTalk announced the departure of Jonathan Kini, the company’s consumer and business-to-business chief.

He will be replaced by Adam Dunlop, current managing director of supply and partnerships, who oversees negotiations with network suppliers such as BT’s Openreach and CityFibre.

TalkTalk also said Susie Buckridge, group product, data and analytics director, and Lucy Thomas, corporate and regulatory affairs director, will join its executive committee.

The appointments signal efforts by TalkTalk, which was taken private by investment fund Toscafund in a £1.1bn deal in 2020, to shore up its leadership with a tough outlook ahead.

The company is under pressure from a growing debt pile amid rising interest rates, while its budget-focused business model is also under threat as consumers curb their spending during the cost-of-living crisis.

Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming James’s expertise to the TalkTalk team. Our focus on full fibre is resolute and the country has never needed affordable, reliable connectivity more.

“We look forward to continued strong performance, with the highest-growing wholesale business in the UK and a unique supplier base spanning both Openreach and a number of altnets.”