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Swisscom CEO steps down for "personal reasons"

In a surprise announcement, Swiss telecommuncations group Swisscom said on Thursday that its chief executive officer Tony Reis, 58, was stepping down at the end of 1999 "of his own accord and for personal reasons."

This content was published on December 16, 1999 - 13:39

In a surprise announcement, Swiss telecommuncations group Swisscom said on Thursday that its chief executive officer Tony Reis, 58, was stepping down at the end of 1999 "of his own accord and for personal reasons."

The move had been prepared for a few months within the company, Swisscom spokesman Sepp Huber said. The company maintained there had been no divergences over strategy on the board and declined to say whether Reis was joining another group.

Executive board member Jens Alder will replace him with immediate effect, Swisscom said.

Reis took over at the helm of Swisscom in January 1998, leading the former state enterprise into privatisation and to the stockmarket. The state still has a 65.5 percent stake in Swisscom.

Alder, 42, had most recently been in charge of the "Fit for Competition" project, aimed at finding efficiency gains in the former monopolist company beyond an earlier restructuring programme.

A share trader at a private Swiss bank said the news was a surprise and Swisscom's share price was likely to suffer. "Tony had always been very aggressive. Perhaps there were differences of opinion," the trader said.

"We owe Tony Reis our deepest gratitude. Together with his team he has placed Swisscom in an excellent position for the future," Chairman Markus Rauh said in a statement.

"Over the last three years, Mr. Reis has had a decisive and positive influence on Swisscom thanks to consistent customer orientation, strategic realignment and the profound changes made to the company infrastructure," the statement said.

Reis himself recently replied to questions about his future at the helm of the company by saying "that is a matter between me and the board."

A trade union spokesman said Reis left behind a "chaotic working climate," saying the restructuring of Swisscom had gone too far and was carried out too quickly.

Swisscom’s supervisory board, meeting on December 15, decided to appoint Alder as new chief executive, stressing "his proven knowledge of the telecommunications sector and excellent leadership qualities." The board said he was "well equipped to successfully rise to the new challenges faced by Swisscom."

"Jens Alder will guarantee that we are able to continue implementing the strategic realignment of the company and so maintain our unbroken success in the market," Rauh said in the statement.

Alder, speaking in an interview with the Associated Press news agency on Thursday, said he would try to ensure continuity for Swisscom management.

He said Swisscom would have to weather stiff competition and a major price war in the telecommunications sector.

Swisscom said Calvin Grieder, who had been seen as a crown prince to Reis, was also leaving the company for personal reasons. Grieder, 44, was head of the Product House division and will be replaced by Carsten Schloter, 36, a board member at Germany's Debitel AG in which Swisscom last year obtained a majority stake.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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