Thanks Sol Trujillo.
I may be one of the few Australian journalists that would publicly say it, but I appreciate what the departing Yank has done for Telstra.
Sure the out-going CEO comes off as the archetypal arrogant American and his kitschy moustache does lend itself to comparisons with the pool cleaner in any one of many b-grade pornos.
And clearly he and his amigos have riled unions and those hoping to break the telcos monopoly grip on Australia’s infrastructure.
But whatever you think of the man and his business policies – which I certainly didn’t always agree with – Sol has fundamentally changed the perception of Telstra in the public eye.
When Sol joined Telstra in July 2005 after heading up London-based Orange, the telco was still battling to shrug off its image as a publicly owned utility.
Despite the opening of the market in 1997 and the offloading of Telstra shares by the Federal Government in 1997 and 1999, I believe the moves towards privatisation were never fully accepted by the punters. There was always the feeling Telstra was “ours but not”. It was a hybrid of public and private with a confused brand image.
It could never be the public entity it once was because of its private status, and similarly could never strut on the global stage because of its public shackles.
Aided by the final sale of Government held shares to the Future Fund in early 2007, Sol has been able to render any notion of a Telstra as a public utility meaningless. His brash and unforgiving persona has transformed the telco’s image.
Mention Sol and Telstra comes to mind. Mention Telstra and Sol comes to mind. If you doubt any of this do a Google news search.
Whether this was an intentional strategy or not, the result is resounding. Yes, it has obviously given the man himself a profile boost and a golden handshake to boot, but it also means Telstra can now take a new CEO and go to the global market without the shackles of the perception as a publicly owned utility. It can compete with products like its new 21mbps mobile modem as an equal - something very few Australian companies are capable of doing.
So a hearty sayonara Sol, and a grudging thanks.