Frontier Communications announced a changing of the guard Tuesday morning by naming Nick Jeffery as its next president and CEO. Jeffery, who is currently CEO of Vodafone UK, will take over the helm from current President and CEO Bernie Han on March 1 after giving his notice at Vodafone UK.
Han, who was appointed CEO and president almost exactly a year ago, will remain on Frontier's board of directors and will help guide the CEO transition, as well as Frontier's ongoing emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, until Jeffery joins. Once he's onboard, Jeffery will also take a seat on Frontier's board of directors.
“I am honored to be appointed Frontier’s next CEO, and I am excited to lead the Company in its next phase," Jeffery said in a statement. "Frontier owns a unique set of assets and maintains a competitive market position. My immediate focus will be on serving our customers as we enhance the network through investments in our existing footprint and in adjacent markets while building operational excellence across the organization.
"I am committed to delivering world-class customer service. I look forward to speaking and meeting with our employees while working with Bernie, the board and leadership team to ensure a seamless transition.”
Frontier Communications filed for bankruptcy on April 14 to begin a prearranged $10 billion debt-cutting proposal backed by its largest bondholders. Frontier announced it had entered into a Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA) with bondholders representing more than 75% of its $11 billion outstanding unsecured bonds. Frontier's goal was to reduce its debt by more than $10 billion and eliminate nearly $1 billion in annual interest obligations
In August, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved Frontier's plan for reorganization. According to Frontier's bankruptcy plan, four investment firms will own between 20% and 28% of the new company: Elliott Management, Franklin Mutual, Golden Tree Asset Management, and HG Vora.
In tandem with Frontier's RSA, Frontier formed a search committee that was comprised of two of the company's shareholders and two current Frontier board members to evaluate the company's leadership needs, including a potential CEO succession process.
Following a review of both internal and external candidates, and with the assistance of an executive search firm and two additional noteholder representatives, Frontier's board voted unanimously to name Jeffery as the company's next CEO and president.
In December of last year, Dan McCarthy stepped down as Frontier Communications' president and CEO, and left the company's board of directors after a 29-year career at Frontier. Frontier's board unanimously appointed Han as McCarthy's successor across all three positions at the company.
Prior to being named CEO, Han started working with Frontier's finance committee as an advisor in October of last year to help improve the company's financial position. Han brought more than 30 years of experience to Frontier, including more than 11 years at Dish Network, as well as an extensive background in finance. At Dish, Han served as CFO, COO and as executive vice president for strategic planning.
While Han led Frontier through a difficult time, it seems as though Frontier's primary noteholders wanted their own president and CEO.
Jeffery has close to 30 years of operational expertise and leadership in the telecommunications industry. He was named CEO of Vodafone UK four years ago, and was an executive board member dating back to 2013.
In Tuesday's press release, Jeffery was credited with leading Vodafone U.K., which is one of Vodafone’s largest businesses, through a "successful four-year customer-centric turnaround and transformation." During his tenure, Vodafone UK returned to revenue and market share growth and achieved improvements to its net promoter score, churn and customer and employee satisfaction.
During his stint as CEO, Vodafone UK also reduced its operating expenses, delivered EBITDA growth, increased its free cash flow and became the fastest growing home broadband provider in the U.K.
Prior to Vodafone UK, Jeffery spent over a decade at Cable and Wireless where he led the U.K. and international market business units. Jeffery also had a two-year stop at Ciena, where he was senior vice president for worldwide sales.
Jeffery lists his hobbies as Formula 1 racing, skiing, cars, playing guitar and piano/keyboard, and hitting the gym on a regular basis, as well as being a former paraglider and hang glider.
In September, Frontier Communications announced that former Verizon executive John Stratton would be executive chairman of its board once the company emerged from Chapter 11. Frontier has said it was targeting early next year for emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"We are pleased to commence the next phase in our ongoing transformation as we prepare for emergence from Chapter 11 by announcing our intent to name Nick Jeffery as our next CEO," said Robert Schriesheim, chairman of the finance committee of Frontier's board. "As part of a leadership transition, we previously announced that John Stratton would be named executive chairman upon emergence from Chapter 11.
"Concurrently, the search committee was already fully engaged in evaluating the management needs of Frontier. We are now at a point of natural evolution in our transformation and, following a rigorous process, the search committee concluded that Nick is the right CEO to lead Frontier through its next phase of investment and profitable growth."
Schriesheim also thanked Han for helping navigate Frontier through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic, and for his willingness to guide the CEO transition and remain on the board until Jeffery joins Frontier.
Frontier has garnered regulatory approvals, or favorable determinations, to emerge from Chapter 11 from 12 states: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Frontier said it was making progress on securing the remaining regulatory approvals
Last week, Frontier was one of the top-10 winners in Phase 1 of the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction.