Deutsche Telekom CEO Obermann to step down, CFO to take over

The head of Deutsche Telekom, Rene Obermann, is to step down in a year’s time. He apparently requested that the board set a termination date for his contract of 31 December 2013, and his successor has been chosen.

That successor will be current CFO Timotheus Höttges, who has been with DT for the last 12 years in various posts. Obermann has been there for 16 years. Tellingly for someone who has recently been complaining about the constraints of working in a big telco, he said in the statement that he wishes to take on “more entrepreneurial activities”:

“I want to go back to having more time for customers, for product development and for technology… As far as I am concerned, [Höttges] is the best choice to succeed me. I cannot think of anyone better suited to continue the developments of the last few years.”

Höttges has experience across the German giant. He started out as CFO of the mobile division, then became sales chief of the same unit. In 2006 he took over DT’s fixed-line business, before becoming group CFO. It was in this role that he headed up initiatives such as the merger of DT’s British operation, T-Mobile UK, with France Telecom’s Orange UK – the result was Everything Everywhere, or EE.

Another telling part of the statement came from DT supervisory board chairman Ulrich Lehner, who said Höttges was a “recognized entrepreneur and has the Supervisory Board’s complete trust”. This points to a continuation and perhaps escalation of the company’s startup investments and digital investments.

Everyone involved is promising a “smooth transition”, which is presumably why the succession has been announced a year in advance.