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Saturday, Mar 15, 2003

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Idea Cellular CEO quits

K. Giriprakash


THE Idea Cellular Ltd Chief Executive Officer, Mr Graham Burke, has resigned from his post, taking the cellular industry by surprise.

While industry sources said Mr Burke was asked to resign, the Idea board member, Mr S. Mishra, refused to comment on the issue. "It is an internal matter. Mr Burke put in his papers sometime during this week," Mr Mishra told Business Line.

Idea's Chief Financial Officer, Mr Vikram Mehami, has been given charge of the post apart from his current duties.

"The decision was taken by the board," Mr Mehami said but refused to confirm whether Mr Burke was asked to quit. Mr Burke could not be contacted for his reactions.

The resignation of Mr Burke comes within a year of his predecessor, Mr Sanjeev Aga, quitting the post. The company earlier lost its Chief Marketing Officer who quit a few months ago.

After Mr Aga resigned from the company, the cellular giant went without a CEO for a while till Mr Burke of AT&T was appointed in his place.

Industry sources said the frequent churn in the top management of Idea Cellular could affect the image of the company and send wrong signals internally.

The new development comes at a time when Idea Cellular and BPL are reportedly in talks to form the country's biggest cellular alliance.

The merger talks had earlier run into problems because of issues such as post-merger equity structure and the valuation of the circles in which BPL operates. Both the companies had earlier signed an MoU to explore the option of a merger.

Idea Cellular Ltd is one of the fastest growing cellular companies, promoted by the country's largest business houses - the Aditya Birla group and the Tata Group - and the world's largest telecom giant, AT&T Wireless, USA.

It operates in New Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra (excluding Mumbai) circles.

Idea Cellular has already displaced BPL Mobile to emerge as the third largest company in terms of subscriber base in India, after the launch of operations in the Delhi circle.

Idea had 12.04 lakh subscribers as compared with BPL's 10.79 lakh at the end of December 2002. The country has a total of around 1.17 crore cellular subscribers.

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