Optus Vision chief ankles

SYDNEY — Just two weeks after pinkslipping 13% of the staff of cabler Optus Vision (OV), Ziggy Switkowski has left the chief exec’s office.

Peter Howell-Davies, an exec with Optus’ 25% stakeholder Cable & Wireless, takes over from Switkowski, whose position had been the subject of speculation for weeks.

Also in the reshuffle, Optus chairman Russell Fynmore was replaced by Bob Dalziel, managing director of transport and health-care group Mayne Nickless, which also holds 25% of Optus. More execs are expected to leave Optus during the coming weeks.

The move has been interpreted as C&W asserting control on behalf of fellow stakeholders BellSouth, which is rumored to want to sell its 25%, and Mayne Nickless, which has wanted to sell out of Optus via an IPO for more than a year.

“My first task will be to work directly with shareholders to ensure that Optus Vision is handled in an expeditious way,” Howell-Davis said.

Switkowski had been chief exec of the Optus telco biz for 13 months. He also assumed control of OV, the telco’s troubled feevee offshoot, after former chief exec Geoffrey Cousins retired in September.

Since then, Switkowski found himself embroiled in a bitter dispute among warring OV shareholders Kerry Stokes, Kerry Packer and US West, culminating in Stokes suing OV. That, coupled with severe problems with OV’s telephony service and lawsuits over rugby rights, delayed a much-mooted IPO, which was to have raised more than $700 million last year.

Optus finally ran out of patience and bought out OV’s warring shareholders, merged the feevee business back into its telco biz in March and downsized last month.

OV is on track to lose about $260 million for the year ended June 30.

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