New Zealand’s largest telco, Spark, will have a new boss from July, after the shock resignation today of Simon Moutter, who has served as managing director for seven years.

Spark made the announcement to the New Zealand Stock Exchange today, with current Spark customer director, Jolie Hodson, becoming the company’s chief executive on July 1.

Moutter has also resigned as a director of the company, effective 30 June. Spark shares on the NZX dropped sharply following the unexpected announcement.

Moutter has lead Spark through some major changes in recent times, including a big move to agile working. “In almost every respect, Spark today is a vastly different company to the one that Simon re-joined in 2012,” said Spark chair Justine Smyth.

She noted the company’s ‘rejuvenated’ mobile business, including the launch of the Skinny brand, and its entry into areas such as the Internet of Things, entertainment and sports media.

The telco recently launched Spark Sport and has secured the rights to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021, along with a slew of other big name events.

Moutter also steered the company through its rebrand from Telecom to Spark in 2014. The resignation comes at a time when Spark is making news again on the back of tensions over Huawei’s role in New Zealand’s 5G rollout.

Spark’s application to use Huawei equipment in its 5G build was declined in November, with the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) citing “significant national security risks.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern while visiting China, was at pains to downplay the Huawei issues, claiming suggestions Huawei had been banned were false.

Smyth said Moutter took on the role in 2012 with the expectation that it would most likely be a five-to-seven-year tenure.

His successor has been with Spark since 2013, when she joined as CFO. She later moved into the role of CEO for Spark Digital and customer director.

“We are delighted to have confirmed a top-quality internal candidate, which speaks to Spark’s desire, where appropriate, to develop and promote talent from within,” Smyth added. “Jolie is an accomplished leader with a strong record of delivering results and managing complex business units and to be able to appoint an executive of Jolie’s calibre and experience is a testament to the quality of the talent within the company.”

“She has had experience across most major parts of Spark’s business since she joined the company in 2013,” Smyth said.

Moutter said he hasn’t made any decisions about what he will do once he leaves Spark, other than spending the first couple of months with his family.

“I feel it’s the right time to pass the leadership baton on and I am delighted the Board has chosen an outstanding leader in Jolie to succeed me,” he added.

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