By Scott Moritz
April 8, 2008

It’s time for a change at British Telecom (BT) as CEO Ben Verwaayen steps aside after six years, giving the top job to the company’s consumer chief, Ian Livingston, effective in June.

The move comes after Verwaayen shifted the U.K. phone giant’s focus more toward corporate data and business services. That move broadened the former state-owned telecom’s range, but a slowdown in sales and a costly network upgrade project called 21st Century Network dogged the company’s recent financial performance.

Dutch-born Verwaayen, a former chief operating officer at Lucent (ALU) in New Jersey, says the change was his idea. “It was time to make a move,” he said. “We have a great bench of people from all walks of life. I told the board ‘Let’s do it and let’s do it quickly and orderly.'”

Verwaayen says he’s made no plans for what he’ll do after June 1, but he added, “I’m a global guy, I go where the action is.”

He had no comment on Motorola’s (MOT) search for a new mobile phone chief other than to say that “the handset business is a tough business.”

Looking back, networking equipment sales was a tough business at Lucent during the Net building bust. And turning a big national phone company into a international data service provider wasn’t exactly easy. So its hard to know if “tough” is an invitation or a warning to a hard-charger such as Verwaayen.

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