It’s not just any old person who can get a job created just for them: God, perhaps, or Fonzworth Bentley, P Diddy’s personal wielder of his Puffjesty’s umbrella. Stephen Carter (Lord Carter of Barnes, to give him his full name) has just been slotted into a brand new job at Alcatel-Lucent.
Carter, the former head of the U.K.’s telecom watchdog unit and a one-time minister to Gordon Brown, is moving to Paris next month for his latest role: Chief Marketing, Strategy and Communication Officer. Hmmm, have we ever had a CMSCO before? (Not unless you’re a dyslexic fan of disco, methinks.) No matter, what he’ll need to do is turn the Franco-American global telecoms company around when he arrives at company headquarters in Paris next month. How will he do it? Let’s look to his past to find out:
- Alcatel-Lucent is already up against it. Its CEO, Ben Verwaayen, has already taken responsibility for last month’s malfunctions on a high-speed network it built for New Zealand’s Telecom Corp. But Carter, who started his career as a trainee for ad giant J Walter Thompson in the U.K. could be just the ticket.
- In a previous job he was accused of being “more interested in the product than the service,” as well as not looking out for consumers. Better not tell that to the Kiwis.
- He’s got serious top-level government experience–and contacts, which is probably why Alcatel-Lucent is taking him on–Gordon Brown took him on as a strategy chief and principal adviser in January 2008. But he didn’t last long in government, as Andrew Rawnsley reports in his new book, The End of the Party, in October of that year he was given a peerage and moved to the Communications, Telecom and Broadcasting Department. Over to Rawnsley.
- “He was undermined from the start by the old Brown clique. He bumped into Damian McBride, who saw him as a threat,” says another of Brown’s aides. “It was a turf thing. Stephen was a really nice bloke,” comments one civil servant. “He just didn’t know what he was letting himself in for. They made a decision to f*** this guy. By April, it was transparent to everyone in the building that this guy was dead.”
- Before that, he was the first chief executive of the British Government’s telecom and media watchdog, OFCOM. He’d cut his teeth in the broadcasting world as COO of U.K. cable TV company, NTL, where he had to deal with the NYSE-listed firm’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
- And then there are the directorships: Royal Mail and Brunswick Group, and he’s also a vice-president of Unicef. He’s also a Labour donor, although after his exit from Number 10, that might have stopped.
- After resigning from the government last year, where he put together the Digital Britain report, there was speculation that he’d be asked to head up ITV, the U.K.’s commercial TV arm, which was going through a bit of a sticky patch. Some media insiders, however, begged to differ, as Carter’s wife (and the mother of his two kids) is Australian, and friends thought she was angling for a return to her homeland. Mais non, he’s off to France now.
- A prodigiously hard worker, Carter’s effortless rise to become chief executive by the time he was 30, is put down to his puritanical Scottish roots. “He does things because he thinks he should,” said a colleague of his at JWT. No hedonist either, he’s always in control, and rarely socializes with his colleagues. However, as befits his directorship with a PR outfit, he does believe “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
- Other weird little factoids: Plays golf because it’s a social tool, wears tank tops and drives a Mini. Oh, and if you like Minis, you might enjoy another ex-colleague’s assessment of him, who compares his management style to Michael Caine’s character in The Italian Job. “Right, we’re going to work as a team. That means you’ll do exactly what I say.”