After a year of internal white-anting and a fortnight of back-stabbing leaks, Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski has finally called it a day.
Switkowski will leave Telstra on July 1; very probably sooner should a suitable replacement be found prior to his exit date.
Telstra's board and its federal government overseer will start an international search immediately to find a replacement.
Preferably a replacement that can stem Telstra's waning core revenues and bolster its remaining equity to $30 billion - without spooking nervous, rural Coalition members into damaging factional warfare.
While the ultimate fate of Switkowski was far from a secret, it remains unclear if his exit has been prompted by the availability of a potential replacement, or who it could be.
In the hours following Switkowski's departure, market rumours circulated as to whether a successor had been tapped on the shoulder. One rumour doing the rounds in dealing rooms suggested Microsoft's local managing director SteveVamos had thrown his hat in the ring. A Microsoft spokesperson said any truth to the rumour could be completely ruled out.
A senior government source dismissed the suggestion as "ridiculous".
"I realize certain sections are putting that about...it's just rubbish," the source said, adding that both the government and the board were keen to cast as wide a net as possible to secure the best talent.
While news of the Switkowski's departure filtered through while Australia's equity markets were still open - and only marginally boosted Telstra's share price - a senior Telstra executive suggested Ziggy may have chosen his own moment.
The source recalled the timing of pertinent government resignation announcements had not always been conveyed to Telstra in the past - nominating the resignation of former communications minister Richard Alston as a key example.
"It's not comforting to be kept waiting in front of the press on those occasions. We looked like mugs," the source said.
With its future sale always a ready topic, another Telstra senior executive said it was likely the government would sell the telco for whatever price it could obtain.
"A cynic would say they may want the money before the next election."
Switkowski leaves Telstra with an agreed payment of $2,092,000 not including leave, entitlements and bonuses. Treasurer Peter Costello has defended the payout following questions about the package from Labor MP Wayne Swan.
By pure coincidence, former Communications minister Richard Alston, who resigned on the 80th anniversary of Telstra Research Laboratories without telling anyone in Telstra, was tipped by Liberal Party insiders to become the High Commissioner to the UK on Wednesday. Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer described Alston as "a great guy".
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