16th May 2013

Big Changes at Virgin Media: A takeover and a new CEO

Last month the £16 billion takeover of the second largest pay-TV operator in Britain, Virgin Media Inc, by US cable giant Liberty Global Inc was announced. This week Liberty Global revealed that former News Corp exec Tom Mockridge will be the new CEO of Virgin Media. While Rupert Murdoch’s Sky is currently the largest pay-TV operator in Britain, the company will be defending its lead position as rival John Malone’s Liberty Global vies for the top spot.

Mockridge is of course is a News Corp veteran, having held various senior management positions with the company over the past 20 years. He was most recently CEO of News International; at the height of the phone hacking scandal in 2011 Rebekah Brooks quit as chief executive and Mockridge took over. He abruptly resigned 18 months later however, reportedly due to disappointment at being passed over for a top job in New York. Mockridge told NI staff at the time, "The reason I am leaving is that the new structure does not offer me a role I am comfortable with."

And now in his new position Mockridge will find himself pitted against his former employer as he makes a bid for customers in the hugely competitive pay-TV market. With plans for continued expansion, Mockridge will certainly have his work cut out for him. Mike Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global is confident that he is the right candidate, explaining that Mockridge “has a great track record of building business from scratch and managing a large organization…He’s also worked in a conglomerate and in complex environments.”

It is likely that Mockridge will take the helm in June, once the takeover is complete and current CEO Neil Berkett retires. While Virgin Media will retain its brand, the takeover will create a cable TV business serving 25 million customers in 14 countries.

Virgin Media will need a solid leader to propel it successfully forward. The simplest and clearest definition of a “leader” can be reduced to three essentials. A leader must set a clear direction; must be able to bring people with him or her; and must deliver results. Mockridge’s leadership effectiveness will be tested and judged in the coming months, and we will be watching his progress with great interest.

Hilda Goold

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