O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne steps down following merger collapse

O2’s chief executive Ronan Dunne has stepped down in the wake of its proposed merger with Three falling through.

Ronan Dunne

The news of Dunne’s departure comes a few short months after Europe’s competition commissioner blocked CK Hutchison’s proposed £10.5bn acquisition of the O2 mobile network in Britain, which it had planned to merge with its own mobile business, Three.

Dunne had previously said he would leave O2 once the takeover was complete. His departure ends a near 15 year run as chief executive at the company.

He said in a tweet after the news was announced: “It has been the greatest privilege to serve as O2 CEO — thank you for being amazing.”

Chief financial officer Mark Evans has been tipped to take his place next month.

Evans, who joined O2 in 2012, said he is “hugely excited by the opportunity to lead O2 through its next chapter”.

Evans has been charged with helping the company assess its options now that the Three merger is off the cards. Its parent company Telefónica is keen to sell O2 to help reduce its heavy debt burden, which stood at €50.2bn at the end of March. Telefónica said today’s announcement followed the “successful completion of a strategic review”.

The company is reportedly in talks with private equity groups and cable group Liberty Global to sell the business.

One theory put forward by the Financial Times is the company will float on the London Stock Exchange, but current economic uncertainty following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union mean Telefónica is unlikely to rush to float O2.

In February Dunne gave The Drum an insight into how O2 is looking to make a mark in the ad business.

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