(ANDREA FOX – BusinessDay) The chairman of new mobile phone network 2degrees, Bill Osborne, will step down from the job this month.
Mr Osborne, who represents minority shareholder the Hautaki Trust, said after more than 10 years’ involvement in getting New Zealand’s third mobile phone player to its market launch in August, it was time to let US-based majority shareholder Trilogy drive 2degrees.
Last year Trilogy increased its shareholding from 26 per cent to 52 per cent, while Hautaki, a pan-Maori investor, was forced last month to dilute its stake from 20 per cent to about 13 per cent after being able to raise only $4 million of $20m in required new equity to hold its position.
Mr Osborne, chief executive of Quotable Value, will remain a director. The new chairman will be Trilogy’s Stewart Sherriff, at present deputy chairman.
Mr Osborne said Trilogy had asked him to head the board for the past year while it “got to understand the nuances of New Zealand”. It had been an “exciting, frustrating and very challenging” journey.
The biggest challenge had been trying to influence the regulatory environment to make a level telecommunications playing field to attract new investors to New Zealand.
Mr Osborne said Hautaki failed to raise enough funds to retain its 20 per cent stake because Maori, whose typical investments are in fishing, farming and forestry, do not understand the asset class.
But having made the investment opportunity available to Maori, Hautaki would continue to explore other spectrum options.
I’d like to see Maori involved across a wider spectrum than just mobile telephony. It is a truly moving feast. The more successful it [2degrees] becomes, the more interested Maori will become.”